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PestiBytes Episode 27: Is it safe to apply DEET repellents?

headphones Introduction/Conclusion: Dr. Dave Stone, Director of the National Pesticide Information Center
Host: Carmen, Pesticide Specialist
Guest: Nick, Pesticide Specialist

DR. STONE: Welcome to PestiBytes, a podcast series from the National Pesticide Information Center. These are based on common pesticide questions from people just like you.


CARMEN: This is Carmen and I’m talking with Nick about health risks of using of DEET. NICK, is it safe to apply DEET repellents?

NICK: There is always risk when applying a pesticide, and repellents are considered pesticides under the law. The health risks are higher for people who do not follow the label instructions, which can cause higher exposures than the EPA considered when they registered the product.

CARMEN: How can someone be overexposed to DEET? And how could it affect their health?

NICK: Common examples involve people wearing clothing over skin that has been treated with DEET, when people don’t wash the product off their skin after returning indoors, or when a product is applied too often (at short intervals) or daily for several days. These scenarios can result in overexposure. When the product is applied to the skin according to the directions, a small amount of DEET is absorbed into the body. This amount may increase when the treated skin is covered with clothing or when the product stays on the skin for longer than intended.

CARMEN: Are there other things to consider?

NICK: Yes, our bodies may also absorb more of the chemical when alcohol or sunscreen is also applied to the skin.

CARMEN: How can we avoid overexposure?

NICK: The most critical step is following all label directions. Remember that labels also include information about age restrictions and how long you need to wait to reapply repellents.

CARMEN: Thank you, Nick!

NICK: You're welcome!


DR. STONE: If you have questions about pesticides, please call us at 1-800-858-7378 or visit us on the web at http://npic.orst.edu. PestiBytes is brought to you by the National Pesticide Information Center, a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency. These are produced in collaboration with OSU's Environmental Health Sciences Center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Last updated January 06, 2016

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