CAROLINE COX / Journal of Pesticide Reform v.25, n.3, Fall 2005 17oct2005
DEET is a repellent used by almost one-third of the U.S. population every year.
It is one of the few pesticides applied directly to skin and clothing.
Symptoms of DEET poisoning in exposed people include:
- and seizures.
In both laboratory animals and human cells, DEET has damaged DNA, the genetic material in living cells.
DEET can cross the placenta and move from a mother to her unborn child. When pregnant laboratory animals are exposed to DEET, the exposure has caused fetal loss and abnormal skeletons in the offspring.
Male laboratory animals exposed to DEET produced abnormal sperm.
Exposure to DEET in amounts equivalent to what people typically apply to their skin has affected the behavior and nervous system of laboratory animals. Effects include:
- reduced sensory and motor skills
- a reduction in the ability of the blood-brain barrier to pass molecules through to the brain
- changes in the activity of an enzyme that helps transmit nerve impulses
- and death of nerve cells in the brain.
The combination of DEET and fenvalerate is synergistically toxic to pets.
DEET frequently contaminates streams. Exposure of developing chicks to DEET caused birth defects.
Caroline Cox is NCAP’s staff scientist.