Natural Repellents Tell Mosquitoes to Buzz Off (Letter to the Editor)

Despite the way it was cast in the story (“Natural Repellents Tell Mosquitoes to Buzz Off,” Aug. 18), insect repellants containing DEET have the longest record of demonstrated safety and effectiveness. That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended DEET for years.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, “DEET-based products provided complete protection for the longest duration.” In fact, DEET effectiveness lasted 15 times longer than so-called “natural” botanical products. The study also noted that DEET has been in use for decades with few health repercussions. Accordingly, researchers dubbed DEET “gold standard for protection” against dangerous insect-borne diseases.

Moreover, the Post’s recommendation that the public consider applying oils from garden plants on their bodies is even more wrongheaded. Unlike synthesized insect repellants, such home remedies are not designed and tested for safe use on the human body and as such, they could pose greater risks than synthesized products, in addition to being much less effective. Those individuals who still don’t want to use DEET may now want to use the CDC-endorsed products containing picaridin, a new active ingredient that has shown similar effectiveness in clinical studies. But following some of The Washington Post recommendations could be dangerous.