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The concern of purchasing a safe-to-use insect repellent is well justified. There are numerous insect repellents which contain chemicals known to cause harm to one's health. One such substance which is widely used in most of the repellents is DEET - N, N-diethyl- meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide. It is used in hundreds of products with concentrations up to astounding 100%.

DEET is a chemical that can be found in vast majority of repellent products. It can be purchased in forms of lotions, liquids, sprays and even wristbands. DEET has been shown to cause dermal and neurological problems.



About 30% of American use DEET products every year. According to Agency For Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR), nearly 230 products containing DEET are currently registered with EPA. In addition, the official draft of toxicological profile of DEET effects shows a list of side effects accompanied by the use of DEET related products. Exposure to DEET has been associated with various respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, dermal and ocular issues.

Some of the most serious effects reported, have been neurological side effects:

  • Seizures
  • Ataxia
  • Uncontrolled limb movements
  • Aggressive behavior


The most frequently reported symptoms of DEET toxicity in children include tremors, convulsions, seizures, lethargy and headaches. A survey with 143 employees of the Everglades National Park, who used DEET products regularly while working, showed that exposed workers, had a higher prevalence of:

  • disorientation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dizziness
  • skin rashes
  • nausea
  • transient numb or burning lips

In addition, Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist, Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell functions in parts of your brain. This conclusion was demonstrated in the lab by deaths and behavioral changes in rats with prolonged DEET use. Other potential side effects include shortness of breath, memory loss, headache, muscle and joint pain, tremors and muscle weakness and fatigue.

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