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Deet Insect Repellents
Insect Repellent for Skin & Natural Fiber Clothing

 

Developed by the US Military and USDA after researching thousands of compounds during the 1950s, billions of applications later DEET is still the most effective insect repellent against mosquitoes and ticks.

How Deet Works
Insects such as mosquitoes are attracted to their targets from a distance by carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which are given off by living things through breathing and muscle activity. At close range, body heat and electrical stimuli help the insect home in on its subject, which is why people are often bitten on the ankle, neck or other thin skin area of the body. Deet works by masking those far off odors from living things, and then by confusing the insect at close range by interfering with its electrical receptors.
Deet Repellents work through evaporation. This creates a vapor shield two to three inches above the area of application. The presence of the repellent confuses insects so that they go away. Usually only a small amount of repellent needs to be present on the skin to be effective. It is the delivery system or carrier material which often determines how much repellent you must start with and whether or not re-application is required during your exposure period.
Deet Repellent Application
The EPA defines an application of insect repellent as one gram of formula per 600 square centimeters (<94 square inches) of skin. If the formula used is 100% Deet then users would be applying one gram of Deet. If the formula is a 20% Deet formula, there would be 0.2 grams of Deet and 0.8 grams of carrier material. To achieve an application equivalent to 0.2 grams of Deet per 600 Cm2, the user could either apply one gram of 20% formula or 2/10 gram of 100% Deet formula.
How Much Deet Is Needed To Repel Insects?
Not much Deet needs to be present on the skin at any one point in time to repel most insects. Research performed by the industry suggests between 0.005 and 0.01 grams of Deet per 94 square inches of skin is usually enough. Aggressive or swarming insects may require as much as 0.015 grams. However, as Deet evaporates fairly quickly after application, much higher doses must be initially applied to ensure that hours later enough Deet still remains on the skin to stay above that base repellency level.
Deet Concentration and Repellency
Deet repellency rises sharply with concentration up to around 30% Deet. Additional strengths up to 50% Deet gain nominal repellency, but over 50% Deet very little additional effect is gained other than length of time.
Other Ingredients In Deet Repellent
Most Deet formulas are mixed with alcohol or water as their inactive ingredients. Aerosol formulas will contain propellant solvents. Some composite formulas contain additional repellents and/or synergists as well as Deet, e.g. Broad Spectrum and Deet Plus which contain R326 fly repellent and MGK264 synergist. Time-released Deet repellents contain polymers or proteins which break down slowly in contact with skin. Composites can last longer than straight Deet formulas, and time-release formulas such as Controlled Release will last much longer than comparable straight Deet formulations.
Will Deet Damage My Clothes?
Deet is safe for skin and natural fiber clothing such as cotton. Most man-made fibers (except nylon) may be damaged or stained by Deet. Deet will also stain, soften or damage plastics, paints, varnishes and lacquers. Permethrin will not hurt any fabric and is the repellent of choice for most clothing applications.
Does Deet Irritate The Skin?
Deet is a skin irritant but does not create a skin sensitivity. After a period of frequent use your skin may become red, even sore to the touch, irritated by the presence of Deet. You do not however develop an allergic resistance to Deet. If allowed time to recover, your skin will accept the presence of Deet again without rapidly developing a rash. Continued use could again develop irritation. Deet has been well studied and people do not develop allergic reaction or skin sensitivity to Deet. The amount of Deet which can be used prior to developing skin irritation varies from person to person.
Deet And Skin Absorption
To date absorption studies indicate that the body releases all Deet which it absorbs. There are no studies or clinical observations to suggest long term dangers of Deet when used properly and in accordance with label directions. For straight Deet formulas the EPA publishes absorption rates of up to 20% of the Deet when alcohol is present, 12% when alcohol is not present. Does the absorption rate of Deet matter if Deet has been shown to be toxicologically neutral? During periods of heavy repeated use it may be a concern. Continued presentation of high levels of alcohol-based spray repellents may be irritating to the skin and should be limited. Composite repellents are absorbed less due to molecule size. Time-release repellents minimize absorption significantly due to only releasing small amounts of Deet at any one time, rather than flooding the skin with Deet as with straight Deet applications.

 

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