Why shouldn’t I use DEET?


Why shouldn’t I use DEET?


More and more insect repellents are claiming to be DEET free, but what is DEET? And why shouldn’t you use it?

DEET is a chemical that was developed by the United States Army as an insect repellent in the 1940s. By 1957, it was approved for use by the general public, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

When applied to certain materials, DEET can be damaging, which is concerning as it is approved for use on human skin. DEET can damage rubber, plastic, vinyl, lenses and synthetic fibers.


Why-Shouldn't-I-Use-Deet-WoAccording to the NPIC, DEET repels bugs by interfering with the natural scents emitted from humans and animals that attract biting insects. Unlike more natural modes of repelling mosquitos, DEET can cause irritation to eyes and skin. When ingested, DEET can cause gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea and vomiting.

According to researchers at Cornell University, topical usage of DEET can cause large, painful blisters and permanent scarring. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a questionnaire on the usage of DEET-containing insect repellent among National Park employees. The questionnaire reported reactions including rashes, irritation of the skin, mucous membranes, numbness and burning sensation. One instance of limited DEET exposure resulted in anaphylactic shock.

The same survey showed that Everglades National Park employees having extensive DEET exposure were more likely to have insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function than were lesser exposed co-workers. According to a report by Cornell University, one man who repeatedly applied DEET to his skin prior to spending prolonged periods in a sauna was reported to develop acute manic psychosis characterized by aggressive behavior, delusions and hyperactivity.

Long-term exposure of DEET in rats and dogs resulted in a number of alarming conditions, including tremors, hyperactivity and occasional vomiting. Prenatal mortality in pregnant rats exposed to DEET was increased by more than 15 percent from those not exposed to the chemical, and newborn fatalities increased by almost 30 percent.

Why-You-Shouldn't-Use-DEET-If all those potentially toxic side effects of DEET are not enough to dissuade you from using DEET-containing insect repellent, then perhaps the fact that death has been reported as a neurological side effect of DEET exposure will make you think twice before stocking up on it.


According to the NPIC, neurological symptoms associated with DEET toxicity included encephalopathy, seizures, tremors, slurred speech, coma and death.

There are a number of natural insect repellents that are highly effective and don’t threaten your health. Always read product information and avoid purchasing DEET-containing products to protect yourself, your children, your pets and the environment.