Is DEET a dangerous neurotoxicant?

Pest Manag Sci. 2019 Aug;75(8):2068-2070. doi: 10.1002/ps.5476. Epub 2019 Jun 4.


Controversies surrounding the safety of N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) when used as an insect repellent are centered around conflicting findings in the scientific literature and inaccurate reporting in the public media. Lethal cases of DEET poisoning are few, and usually due to deliberate or other overdoses that ignore product label instructions. Deleterious effects of DEET typically involve skin reactions and even when encephalopathies, such as seizures, occur they often abate without sequelae. Recent mode-of-action studies prove it has little direct effect on acetylcholinesterase, and have identified G protein-coupled receptors as a site of action deserving of further investigation. Studies with pregnant women found that DEET had no effect on the developing fetus from proper use and its continued deployment as a repellent is endorsed by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, with specific recommendations of how it should be used on children. © 2019 Society of Chemical Industry.

Keywords: G-protein coupled receptor; acetylcholinesterase; cardiotoxicity; chemical suicide; neurotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DEET / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Insect Repellents / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity*
  • Rats


  • Insect Repellents
  • Neurotoxins
  • DEET