DEET’s chemical name is N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide.
The US Army was the first to use DEET and it was made available to the public in 1957.
The EPA deemed DEET to be safe for adults and children as long as it’s used as directed:
* Read and follow all directions and precautions on this product label.
* Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
* Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
* Do not allow young children to apply this product.
* Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.
* Do not use under clothing.
* Avoid over-application of this product.
* After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
* Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
* Use of this product may cause skin reactions in rare cases. The following additional statements will appear on the labels of all aerosol and pump spray formulation labels:
* Do not spray in enclosed areas.
* To apply to face, spray on hands first and then rub on face. Do not spray directly onto face.
A new study has appeared in BMC Biology- the flagship biology journal of the BMC series – which publishes research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences.
This study can be downloaded here. Researchers concluded that on rodents, DEET worked in similar fashion as organophosphates (pesticides derived from nerve gas). DEET was found to inhibit the acetylcholinesterase enzyme which controls the main chemical messengers used by the nervous system. The researchers also found that in combination with other enzyme-inhibiting pesticides, the toxicity of DEET increased. In short, it acted on the central nervous system.
Earth shaking news? Not really. It’s the same old story where some say it’s safe and others raise concerns. Testing is done on rodents and insects, not humans. The public is relying mostly on the EPA to determine the health of products containing DEET and many will use them because they are effective, regardless of potential health risks. And health risks from West Nile Virus, Malaria, Lyme Disease and other illnesses carried by insects may for some, outweigh any potential health risks from use of DEET. Heck, this year, Ashton Kutcher used Twitter to support a charity which provides nets soaked in DEET to African families, saving them from Malaria. Using DEET as an insect repellent is a choice.
But what about Gulf War vets who came home with neurological problems? A committee’s report, Scientific Progress in Understanding Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, was released in November, 2004. Based on research carried out in recent years, the committee has pinpointed three sources of exposure as the most likely sources of illness: sarin, which is a nerve gas, pyridostigmine bromide (PB), an “investigational” drug which is itself a nerve gas and was given to troops in small doses with the objective of protecting them against nerve gas, and multiple pesticides including DEET, the repellant used on skin, and permethrin, the repellant used on uniforms. These chemicals are all acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors, which means they effect nervous system functioning. This category of chemicals can cause a range of symptoms including cognitive impairment, effects on muscles and coordination, pain, fatigue and diarrhea. Earlier reports did not consider the possible role of acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors in veterans’ illnesses.
And what about the millions of people worldwide who are chemically sensitive? Many of them whose illness started with an exposure to an organophosphate or other acetyl cholinestrese inhibitor? How did their brains change? What about this study? “Exposure to a combination of stress and low doses of the chemicals pyridostigmine bromide (PB), DEET, and permethrin in adult rats, a model of Gulf War exposure, produces blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption and neuronal cell death in the cingulate cortex, dentate gyrus, thalamus, and hypothalamus.”
All point to something we are not seeing and therefore, not studying. The effects of neurotoxic chemicals in combination with other neurological stressors. The evidence is out there. While some people will trust the EPA and choose products containing DEET, many of us will look for alternatives. Many of us understand that our brains are sensitive to neurotoxins because of our experiences. And, as we warn others, people will continue to be exposed to a chemical soup resulting in seizure, memory loss, cognitive and mood problems, tremors and other central nervous system disturbances.
Are you willing to wait until ALL combinations are tested on rodents? What about waiting to see how pharmaceutical drugs in combination with pesticides affect brains? Or how plastics and pesticides work on our systems? Am I the only one who sees the folly behind waiting? How long would it take to do so? There is already enough EVIDENCE that shows our brains need to be more protected and that while using a pesticide such as DEET as directed won’t kill a person, how does it effect our thinking? Learning? Moods? Memory? And how does it effect people whose nervous systems have already been damaged? Again, it’s folly to believe that science is the only route to wisdom. It simply can’t handle all the permutations, combinations and still unrecognized environmental stressors such as EMF’s.
And here we are back where we started. It’s a choice. Nobody would say that spraying DEET is like spraying a body with water. There have to be consequences. Anyone who suggests we know all the consequences is an arrogant fool. We don’t. It’s risky and most tough decisions in life surround making tough choices.
For those who want other ways to handle annoying mosquitoes and manage the risk of diseases carried by insects, there are other options. Unfortunately, organic or botanically-derived pesticides such as rotenone and pyrethrin are toxic as well. Essential oils can alter moods and are sold as “theraputic”. They, too, seem to change our chemistry. So what are some totally non-toxic, non-brain altering methods?
I mean really non-toxic. Well, this requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Thankfully, another chemically injured person has done so and offers a free resource. Steve Tveden was a pest controller and used traditional poisons which left him sick. You can find his free download “The Best Control” here.
In The Best Control, Steve offers safer solutions to dealing with
Ants Dust Mites Scorpions
Bats Earwigs Spiders
Bed Bugs Fleas Stinging Insects
Birds Flies Stored Product Pests
Chiggers Lice Termites
Clothes Moths and Other Fabric Pests Mosquitoes Ticks
Cockroaches Occasional Invaders Molds – Fungi
Crickets Rodents Safe Lawn & Outside Pest Management
If you need more depth, more can be found on Steve’s website here.
On his section on mosquitoes, he mentions wearing clothes and covering the skin with the amazing food grade pesticide vinegar. Or sit in a breeze. I like how this guy thinks!!