Deet, the active ingredient in most insect repellents, may damage our central nervous system, new research has discovered.
French researchers who made the discovery are now calling for an urgent review into the safety of the products, which they describe as 'neurotoxic', and to actively research safer alternatives. Research team leader Vincent Corbel, from an institute in Montpellier, said: "We've found that deet is not simply a behaviour-modifying chemical but it also inhibits the activity of a key central nervous system enzyme in both insects and mammals."
Corbel and his team discovered that the same mechanism that is so effective against insects such as mosquitoes has the same effect on humans. Its toxicity seems to be magnified when it is used in combination with other insecticides.
(Source: BMC Biology, 2009; 7: 47).