Parents in the US are being warned against using some insect repellents on their small children because they may trigger a wide range of health problems, ranging from dizziness to death.
The problem is the pesticide DEET (diethyl meta toluamide), found in most insect repellents. Those that contain more than 10 per cent of DEET cannot be safely given to children under the age of 5, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated.
Despite concerns over DEET, many Americans are falling victim to repellents. The American Association of Poison Control Centers says that 6745 people reported side effects to insect repellents in 1995, with 4332 of those being children under the age of 6. One 34 year old man died, with the cause attributed to DEET.
But this could be just the tip of the iceberg, with most cases going unreported. According to an ABC television documentary, a 26 year old man died after using DEET twice, while an 8 year old boy suffered from seizures after his mother sprayed him twice with a repellent containing 25 per cent DEET.
New York State has banned all products containing more than 30 per cent DEET, and many supermarkets and stores around the country are looking to stock DEET free repellents (Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, July 1997).