Common Ingredient in Insect
Repellant Can Damage Your Brain
Summertime in the United States means barefoot
walks through the park, late-day bike rides with your
kids, hikes through the forest preservers, and, of course,
barbecues. Unfortunately, all of this outdoor fun can become
unbearable if mosquitoes, ants, ticks
or other insects set their sights on your arms and legs.
Up to one-third of the U.S. population uses DEET-containing
So it's not hard to understand why every year 100 million
Americans use insect repellants to keep bugs away while they
enjoy the great outdoors.
What you may not know is that the active chemical ingredient
in most insect repellents available in the United States --
DEET -- may be harmful to your health.
DEET May Damage Your Brain
According to Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist
Mohamed Abou-Donia -- who has three decades of experience
researching pesticides -- DEET can impair parts of your brain.
When rats were treated with a dose of DEET equivalent to
an average human dose, they had trouble with:
With heavier use, Abou-Donia says, humans may experience:
The most severe damage comes from using DEET with other pesticides
such as permethrin, or when using the chemical for extended
or frequent time periods. And symptoms may not appear for
months or even years.
You can read more about the various health effects DEET has
on humans at the Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
A Warning if You Use Insect Repellants AND Sunscreen
You should not use DEET-containing insect repellants
on babies and infants, as their still-developing nervous
systems are more susceptible to damage.
Numerous companies have come out with products that offer
the "convenience" of insect repellant and sunscreen
in one bottle. Well, several studies have found that mixing
DEET with sunscreen increases your body's absorption of DEET.
Also problematic is the fact that sunscreens are often reapplied,
which would mean that the DEET is also being reapplied frequently.
Even using the products separately may be a concern, as Canadian
researchers found that spraying on DEET, and then rubbing
on sunscreen, increased DEET absorption the most.
What Can You do to Protect Yourself and Your Family?
To start, you can consider avoiding all insect repellants
that contain DEET. There are others on the market that use
only natural essential oils to repel insects, and these do
not pose the potential to harm the environment or your health.
'n Tick B Gone is an ideal alternative because it's an
enzyme-based formula made naturally from plant resources that
you can use as an entirely non-toxic, insect repellant for
your backyard. Just mist the area and you'll be tick- and
bug-free for at least three hours!
'n Tick B Gone repels insects from your backyard
using only natural plant resources; it contains NO DEET.
If you do decide to use insect repellants that contain DEET,
look for those with the lowest concentrations (no more than
30 percent) and follow these precautions from Duke University:
Use insecticides containing DEET sparingly and infrequently.
If possible, spray it on your clothing instead of your
If you do use it on your skin, avoid wearing it for prolonged
periods of time.
Be wary of using insect repellant containing DEET on
children. Children are more susceptible to subtle brain
changes caused by chemicals in their environment and their
still-developing nervous systems are more potently affected.
NEVER use insect repellant containing DEET on infants or babies.
Be aware that DEET can be present in commonly used preparations
like insecticide-based lice-killing shampoos. Lice
B Gone is an all-natural alternative.
Do not combine insecticides with each other or use them
while using other medications. Even an over-the-counter
medication could interact with DEET to cause toxic side
Do not spray your yard for insects and then take medications
afterward. There is a possibility that you've inhaled
a small amount of the insecticide that might interact
negatively with the medication.
Be sure to wash your skin thoroughly after spraying your
yard. Lawn treatment chemicals are very strong and were
not formulated to be applied to human skin.
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