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N.C. Researcher Swatting Aside Concerns Over Mosquito Repellent

Posted July 24, 2002

— A study from the United States Environmental Protection Agency found there could be a problem with DEET, a chemical used in most bug sprays. However, a N.C. State toxicologist says you will find a tiny percentage of people who have had health complications.

"It's quite a small number when you consider DEET is used by approximately 75 million Americans every year and probably two or three times that number worldwide," N.C. State professor Dr. Ernest Hodgson said.

Hodgson said DEET is not really an insecticide, it is a repellent, which means it does not kill mosquitos, but just hides you from their view. Experts do not know exactly how or why.

"It probably interferes with the sensory apparatus of the insect so that it can't really detect the host very well," Hodgson said.

James Riedel is stocking up for a trip to Yellowstone National Park. He is not as worried about the safety of DEET as its effectiveness.

"No, I just care if it keeps the bugs away from me or not," he said.

Riedel said there are places he would not go backpacking without it.

"The Adirondacks are the absolute worst place to be. They are just all over you, and I take it and just pour it on," he said.

"We have one product -- Jungle Juice 100. It's 95 percent DEET strong, but I like don't use that on my skin. I'll put some on my socks, shirt cuff and a little on a hat," sales associate Eric Rice said.

The EPA now wants to study whether combining DEET with other chemicals like common tick sprays may create health risks.

Experts recommend using the lowest amount of active ingredients you can generally at or below about 16 percent concentration. You also should not use it on your face or hands and should wash it off as soon as you can.

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