DEET: Repelling Mosquitos With A Human Neurotoxin?

With summer in full swing many people are having to deal with the seasonal mosquito problem. For decades the repellents of choice have employed the chemical DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) as the active ingredient. Researchers are now finding this to be problematic.

Vincent Corbel of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Montpellier, led a team of researchers with Bruno Lapied of the University of Angers, France in an investigation of the toxicity of deet. Corbel said: “We’ve found that deet is not simply a behavior-modifying chemical but also inhibits the activity of a key central nervous system enzyme, acetycholinesterase, in both insects and mammals”. “These findings question the safety of deet, particularly in combination with other chemicals, and they highlight the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the development of safer insect repellents for use in public health,” continued Corbel. Studies have been ongoing for several years to determine the safety of this common chemical repellent. According to Bahie Abou-Donia of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C, recent findings are right in line with studies that have previously been conducted. “DEET is a good chemical for protection against insects,” Abou-Donia explained. “But prolonged exposure results in neurological damage, and this is enhanced by other chemicals and medications.” Canada has banned using more that 30% DEET in bug repellent products, while here in the U.S. products with 100% DEET are still on the shelves.

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