DEET may be potentially toxic to humans
DEET was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists just after World War II. Thus the product has been on the market for at least fifty years. DEET can be sold as lotion, cream, and spray products. DEET is most commonly used to ward off pests during a camping trip and to prevent mosquito borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever when travelling in third world countries.
A new study reports excessive use of the popular insect repellent DEET can potentially harm people's central nervous systems.
"It has been used for many years, but there are recent studies now that show a potential toxicity," said Vincent Corbel, a researcher at the Institute for Development Research in Montpellier, France, and lead author of the study.
Scientists need to "assess DEET's potential toxicity to humans, especially when combined with other chemical compounds." DEET acts in a similar fashion to insecticides called carbamates, as well as the nerve gas sarin. DEET interfers with acetylcholine (ACh), the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. According to a US government report from last November, insecticides "exert toxic effects on the brain and nervous system by altering levels of ACh."
Fortunately, in most cases the effects of DEET disappear after a short period of time. However, more studies are needed to determine what dosage of DEET may threaten people's lives, especially pregnant women and young children.
Check out our tips for natural insect repellents and bug bite remedies.