Most commercial insecticides available today work by disabling the nervous systems of insects and common household bugs like fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, etc. Thousands of these products have not even been tested by the EPA (in other words, safety use is questionable at best, because the extent and parameters of exposure are unknown), yet many of us continue to use them, believing that because they are on the market, they are inherently safe for us… Unbeknownst to many, the existence of a lot of insecticides (like DDT) actually came in to existence because of chemical weapon research—a fact which many of us do not know.
In this article, we will be talking about the dangers of insecticides, including DEET, as well as how they are leading to ill health in humans and pets, along with environmental poisoning.
DEET comes with the chemical formula N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide. It was first patented in 1943 for use by US troops. In 1955, it was synthesized and released for public use. Today, DEET remains the reference pesticide thanks to its efficacy in countering common household and agricultural pests. Presently, it is estimated that over 2 million people from across the globe use DEET annually. The repellency of DEET covers a wide range of insects including mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, gnats, ticks, etc. The reason why DEET is so attractive as an insecticide is owing to the fact that it is colorless and relatively odorless and offers a protective duration of nearly 4 hours. As many as 225 commercially available products from 30 different companies contain DEET in concentrations ranging from 4 to 100%. DEET is formulated to be applied to skin or clothing and is also available as wristbands and other products that are impregnated with it.
Insects like mosquitoes and other household bugs have chemical receptors on their antennae. These are very sensitive to the lactic acid and carbon dioxide given off by warm blooded animals. As the lactic acid evaporates on the skin, mosquitoes follow its smell to the source. By applying DEET like chemical repellents on the skin or clothes, we mask the lactic acid, thereby “hiding” ourselves from mosquitoes and other bugs. Recent studies[i] suggest that the smell of DEET like chemicals may actually be repulsive to household bugs.
Following are the three main sources causing potential human exposure to DEET, along with other insecticides:
It is quite possible that the soil and our food also contain these chemicals. However, most companies manufacturing these products claim that the percentage in soil and produce is very low and that most of them get broken down due to sunlight and other variables.
DEET and other similar chemical insecticides have been reported to cause death, kill brain cells, damage fetuses, cause neurological damage and also pollute the environment. Here are some of the reported toxic effects of long term exposure to DEET like insecticides along with their studies:
One of the most common adverse effects of DEET is seizures. While the incidence of seizures due to insecticide exposure is estimated to be low, many poison control centers have reported cases of the same. We also need to take into account under reporting of such cases, as well. Other neurological side effects of DEET include encephalopathy, tremors, slurred speech, and behavioral changes. Many cases[iii] of encephalopathy in children were reported in 1961 after application of DEET. Following this, several reports were published about the systemic toxicity after DEET application. While experts argued that products containing less than 50% DEET were generally safe, in children, even 20% DEET preparations applied to large areas repeatedly resulted in slurred speech, agitation, tremors, and convulsions. Rabbits[iv] treated with DEET also showed labored respiration, ataxia and convulsions.
There are several reports[v] of skin sensitivity due to long term exposure to DEET. These include urticaria (rash of round, red weals with swelling and intense itch) and blistering.
Chronic exposure to chemical insect repellents during pregnancy can cause[vi] genetic damage, birth defects, defective sexual development, allergies and asthma. Even one time exposure can cause hormone disruption. In male rats dermally exposed to DEET, permethrin and pyridostigmine bromide, testicular damage and cell death were also reported[vii].
Since 1961 to 2002, 8 deaths have been reported[viii] due to DEET. Three of these were possible suicides, 2 were from dermal exposure in children under 6 and one had a pre-existing condition which may have contributed to death.
Despite these adverse effects, governments continue to be on a pesticide happy rampage. Many insist upon spraying these toxic chemicals over farms and fields via airplanes to destroy moths and other crop predators. People and farm workers living and working under these conditions are reporting a wide range of health issues like watering eyes, asthma and higher incidence of sterility, birth defects, miscarriage, cancer, leukemia and other serious health issues. Spraying chemicals not only kills bugs, it also kills their natural predators and harms domesticated animals. Therefore, instead of harming our environment and ourselves, why not use alternative, natural and safe forms to repel pests?
Thankfully, safer, alternative measures to dangerous chemicals like DEET do exist, and we, as responsible community members on this Earth, bear the duty to investigate, use and educate others as to their effectiveness. To learn more about how to repel insects naturally, check out our FREE guide that teaches you 49 Ways to Naturally Repel Mosquitoes!
Our products that use natural oils to repel insects:
[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11339626[iv] European Handbook of Dermatological Treatments
edited by Andreas D. Katsambas, Torello M. Lotti
[vi] Healing Our Children: Because Your New Baby Matters! Sacred Wisdom for ...
By Ramiel Nagel
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