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DEET in Bug Spray Tied to Neural Damage in Mice
Date:8/5/2009

More research needed to see if compound has same effect in humans, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- New French research suggests the main ingredient used in many insect repellants may affect the central nervous system, at least in mice.

And combining this ingredient -- DEET (N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) -- with carbamates, a type of pesticide that is often used with DEET, compounded the effects.

Although the authors, publishing online Aug. 5 in BMC Biology, warn of potential dangers to humans, they also acknowledge the need for more studies on the subject.

Meanwhile, people should probably worry more about the health risks from mosquitoes and other insects than about the potential harms of DEET, experts said.

"This work was done primarily in test tubes in order to try to understand some of the mechanisms," said Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of the Science & Environmental Health Network. "The mechanistic information is very useful but the jury is still out on what implications this has for humans."

"DEET has been used for a very long time with very few bad outcomes," added Susan Paskewitz, a professor of entomology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "People have killed themselves by drinking it, but you can do that with alcohol or salt. And a few have had neurological symptoms after application for long periods and high doses."

As for the combination of DEET and carbamates, Paskewitz added, "if there are the kinds of synergies suggested by the study, they aren't happening very often. I also would guess that the actual concentration in the body is much lower than they had to use in the study to see an effect in the mouse tissues."

But by better understanding the mechanisms by which DEET works, scientists may be able to come up with better repellant products, said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the
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