What is DEET?
The chemical name of DEET is N,N-diethl-meta-toluamide and it is a derivative of toluene. Toluene is a paint thinner and adhesive solvent. Consequently it melts plastics, synthetic fibres and shrinks leather!
Market research shows that over 100 million people use DEET-based insect repellents at least once a year. These repellents are available in the market in many forms, including sprays, lotions and creams. The percentage of DEET in these repellents is mostly around 10-20%, but the repellents used by the U.S. Army personnel, can contain up to 75% of the chemical. It was used extensively during WWII by the U.S. Army in the Philippines and Tropics.
Mosquitoes detect you by smell of carbon dioxide, body heat and sweat emitted from your body. Repellents aromatic smell mask this odour and make it impossible for insects to detect you.
Dangers of Using Synthetic Chemical Mosquito Repellents
It has been found that topical application of repellents containing DEET, can cause long-term side effects. This is because of the fact that nearly 50% of the chemical penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin and around 15% of it, to the bloodstream. This can adversely affect the skin and prove toxic for the body. Laboratory research conducted on animals, have shown that DEET can cause damage to the brain cells and affect the musculoskeletal system and internal organs.
In humans, children are the most vulnerable, as their tender skin absorbs substances more readily. In some cases, toxic substances from repellents have been reported to affect the nervous system and even affect the growth rate. Given below are some of the potential health hazards and side effects of using chemical-based mosquito repellents.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Muscle pain
- Pain in the joints
- Inflammation and redness of the skin
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Slurred speech
- Insomnia or sleeplessness
Prolonged exposure can sometimes lead to serious complications, although such cases are very rare. The risks of excessive exposure to chemical-based insect repellents, are as follows:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mild to severe depression
- Loss of memory
- Tremors or seizures
- Adverse effects on the central nervous system
We need to use insect repellents when we are out on trips to the bush, the beach or to a country where there is a danger of insect-borne diseases. In such situations, insect repellents are our only saviour. A good way to avoid the many dangers of chemical repellents, is to go for a mosquito repellent made from natural substances such as essential oils, as used in Ozzie Mozzie.