What Science Says About DEET-based Insect Repellentsby Crysta Hammond
Photo by Jimmy Chan
The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that in 2020, approximately 241 million people had malaria. And about 667,000 people died of the disease in the same year. And the culprit? Mosquitoes!
Apart from mosquitoes, black ﬂies and ticks are common disease vectors. The solution to avoiding these is choosing a safe and eﬀective insect repellent. There are several insect repellent options in the market. But DEET and Icaridin as the main active ingredient are two of the most common.
DEET has been around for a while, but it might not be the safest choice on the market. Several scientists have raised health concerns about DEET-based repellents. In this article, we will explore their perceptions.
Meanwhile, the United States Center for Disease Control (US CDC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)recommend Icaridin. Additionally, over 40 countries globally approve TotalSTOP's active ingredient; Icaridin.
So if you're thinking of indulging in any outdoor activity like hiking, fishing, or hunting, TotalSTOP's Icaridin-based insect repellents will save the day. So, why should you protect yourself?
When you're distracted, you pay little attention to your exposed skin. Harmful insects like mosquitoes trail you by the chemicals you emit, even the carbon dioxide you breathe out.
But while you prevent mosquito bites by using your preferred insect repellent, you may be concerned about other risk factors, and the safety of long-term use. Like the safety of use on pregnant women, pets, and infants, present no risk to everyone, whereas DEET usually has an overwhelming scent. So, for individuals sensitive to smells, we recommend you choose an Icaridin-based repellent.
Besides, DEET can cause stains on surfaces and degrade materials like plastics. Icaridin, however, will not damage items like fishing lines, camping gear, hiking or mountain climbing equipment.
Only 30% of the United States population uses the DEET repellent. But what exactly is DEET, and how did it populate the market?
What is DEET?
DEET is the common name for diethyl-m-toluamide. It's a colorless liquid with a strong odour.
Although the chemical usually has no adverse effect on clothing, it can damage certain materials and has been known to damage or degrade synthetic fibers found in some clothing, and it is recommended to not apply them to items like rubber not plastic. Keep them away from contact lenses, sun or eyeglasses, coated surfaces, and other synthetic materials.
In 1946, the United States military created the ingredient to protect soldiers in insect-prone areas. The public adopted it in 1957. It hit the market in 1965. Soon the US EPA gave DEET a registration standard in 1980. It became a recognized insect repellent in the same year.
How Does DEET Work?
Like Icaridin, DEET helps repel mosquitoes, ﬂies, and other insects. There have been different views about its mode of operation.
Some studies revealed that DEET only prevents a bite. It won't prevent mosquitoes from landing on your skin. Another opinion is that it blocks mosquito receptors, stopping them from identifying you. You'll find DEET in other bug repellent products like sprays, lotions and wipes. All of them perform the same function of preventing mosquito bites, and it is also advised that you wash oﬀ the product thoroughly after your outdoor activity to avoid skin irritation.
What Scientists Say About DEET
Several scientists have raised health concerns about DEET. Here we will analyze some of these perceptions and recommend an alternative.
Here are a few things to consider regarding the use of DEET:
Compared to Icaridin, Infants React more Negatively to DEET
The concentration of DEET determines its efficiency level (The American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP)
According to AAP, 10% of this chemical will work for about 2 hours, while 30% will function for 5 hours. Because of this, the product might tempt you to apply liberally to maximize its efficiency. But they noted that a 50% concentration has no added benefit. AAP warned that you apply DEET products on children with caution. They noticed that high chemical concentrations might cause skin rashes when using them on infants.
They also advise you to avoid products that mix DEET with sunscreen. You may overexpose your child to chemicals since you'll apply sunscreen more often in order to protect from UV rays.
If you decide to choose DEET despite its pitfalls, they recommend the following:
Read the label thoroughly and adhere to instructions before usage.
Apply the product to them yourself.
Wash their clothes to remove residues.
Don't apply the chemical to children's hands, face or eye area.
DEET Poisoning is Common in Animals
The Animal Humane Society advises that you avoid using DEET on animals because of their sensitivity to the chemical. It can cause seizures and even death. They advise that if you use the chemical on pets, consider choosing formulations made specifically for animals.
A good recommendation from a veterinarian will help out with your purchase decision.
DEET Aﬀects the Absorption of Sunscreen
Basking under the sun for an extended period usually entails regular applications of sunscreen, but science has revealed that a DEET-based product can affect sunscreen absorption, decreasing its efficacy by 30 to 40%. Additionally, you'll have to master the timing for applying both chemicals.
Avoid products that contain both DEET and sunscreen. Sunscreen requires a consistent application. In doing so, you risk overposing yourself to DEET. You need a product that allows for sunscreen absorption while minimizing risks from biting insects.
Unwashed DEET on Skin Can Cause Reddening, Rashes
Scientists have also discovered that DEET can cause rashes, swelling, and reddening from experiments. It happens when you forget to wash oﬀ the product after a long time. And it's worse if you keep adding layers upon layers of DEET-based insect repellents to your skin – common when you spend extended time outdoors. Adding extra won't improve its efficiency. It may help keep you safe from biting insects but it will also increase your risk level.
A lighter alternative like an Icaridin-based insect repellent reduces the likelihood of skin problems.
DEET Prevents the Breakdown of Acetylcholine
A 2009 study revealed that DEET could prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. You need this vital neurotransmitter for your nervous system, as it coordinates all bodily movements and brain functions.
What is the Safest Alternative to DEET?
Because of DEET’s risks and scientists' concerns, they had to formulate a better option; Icaridin.
Icaridin first appeared in the 1980s. Since its inception, there've been multiple tests and trials on both humans and animals. Satisfactory results have made several health bodies endorse this active ingredient. Like wildfire, its usage has spread across Europe, North America, and Australia.
Currently, over 40 countries globally recommend Icaridin-based insect repellents. But what are the added benefits? Why is this product so popular?
Independent research and studies have proven Icaridin-based insect repellents are the safest and most efficient choice available.
Why is Icaridin the Safest Alternative to DEET?
- Its proven efficiency means you won't need to apply multiple times. One application of TotalSTOP will last for 10-12 straight hours.
- There's no risk of over-exposure from frequent usage. Depending on the length of your outdoor activity, no more than three times daily is enough to provide consistent effective protection.
- TotalSTOP Icaridin-based insect repellents are perfect if you have delicate skin.
- TotalSTOP uses Icaridin in place of DEET, so there is little to no risk associated with its usage.
- It's great for children over six months and those who suffer from allergies.
Your choice of an insect repellent determines the efficiency you'll get. TotalSTOP’s DEET-free insect repellent is a perfect choice if you want a risk-free insect repellent to keep mosquitoes, ticks and other pesky bugs away.