x Don’t Be Fooled, DEET is Dangerous
We’ve heard it from media outlets, the government, and of course every manufacturer that peddles chemical insect repellent: DEET is harmless. And their information is based on sound scientific data, right?
It’s surprising what passes for sound scientific data when money is involved. The data on DEET safety reminds one of the so called “scientific evidence” that BIG tobacco came up with decades ago that claimed cigarettes did not cause cancer—sketchy and obviously biased. To truly decide whether a substance is safe for human consumption we must consider the big picture as regards every facet of the evidence available—when the last research was conducted, what the outcomes were and what risks were discovered. The considerations for DEET safety should be specific and numerous but unfortunately they are as sketchy as a BIG tobacco scientific study from the 1950s.
A primary consideration is that the last safety review on DEET by the EPA was conducted many years ago in the 1990’s, and that research did not completely explore chronic toxicity, that is, repeated applications over several or more seasons. Recent information (much more recent than the 1990s) demonstrated that DEET is a neurotoxin with possible long term negative health consequences. One study also showed that DEET may possibly increase the toxicity of other chemicals that we’re exposed to. As an example 2, 4-D, a highly toxic weed killer that was a component of Agent Orange and is commonly used in commercial lawn spaying, is much more easily absorbed when DEET is applied to the skin.
Another consideration as regards DEET and its safety profile is the fact that, under U.S. federal law no safety claim can be made regarding any pesticide product. The reason for this is simple, pesticides, especially those applied to the skin, are inherently dangerous no matter what the so-called evidence for safety. According to the government, there is no “safety” profile.
A Duke University study showed that prolonged use of DEET will cause neurons to die off in areas of the brain that are responsible for learning, muscle coordination, concentration and memory. Another study at Duke showed that rats that were applied with comparable human doses of DEET were not able to perform muscle control, coordination and strength tests nearly as well as a control group (rats not given DEET). The researchers concluded that the animals in this study showed symptoms that matched physical and mental problems that Gulf War veterans experienced.
So What’s the Best Way to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Pesky Insects?
There are natural alternatives to DEET and other chemicals used as repellents. Natural insect repellents made from Citronella and other plant oils are generally safe for pregnant women and others. Here’s a few you might want to consider: