How Safe Is Deet?
Despite assurances about the chemical, consumer concerns persist. Is there a reason to worry?
Every year, an estimated one-third of the U.S. population uses deet-based products to fend off biting bugs like ticks and mosquitoes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Deet has been available to consumers since 1957, after being discovered by the U.S. military and the Department of Agriculture. Government scientists had tested thousands of chemicals; deet was one of a handful of mosquito repellents that worked.
Even today, scientists still consider deet to be the standard against which other, newer insect repellent active ingredients are judged. Year after year, most of Consumer Reports’ recommended insect repellents are deet-based. And broad scientific consensus holds that the chemical is safe when used as directed on the label.
Still, many consumers have reservations about using it. You may wonder: Is deet really safe? How do we know?
August 2, 2022
In my side pouches, you can find tent poles (right) and a SmartWater bottle (left). A sawyer squeeze is placed inline from the SmartWater bottle and attached to my Osprey mouthpiece to drink fro, as I walk.
The EWG sees picaridin as a reasonably good alternative to DEET—although it hasn’t been tested as long, it doesn’t have the same neurotoxicity concerns. They recommend a concentration of 20 percent for Lyme protection. Common brands include: OFF!, Cutter, Sawyer, Natrapel, Insect Guard.
Fill them up with tap water and it slowly passes through a filter system. Then the main reservoir below collects the filtered water.