Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Long Island, NY
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Basically, it's a poison. It's a poison to insects (which is why they won't bite you if it's on your skin) and it's a poison to humans. Specifically, it's a neruotoxin- it damages nerve and brain cells. It "confuses" insects into thinking you're not food by messing with their neurons- they can't smell or taste you. This same drug, absorbed into a child's body, can damage a growing brain.
Chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin- look at all the new medicines suddenly becoming available in patches. Plus, children are far more likely than adults to ingest things that are intended to be topical. Do you REALLY trust a small child to not scratch her DEET-coated arm, then put her fingers in her mouth?
The safer alternatives are simply strong-smelling oils. They confuse insects' taste and smell sensors by overwhelming them with a different scent and bitter flavor- not by damaging their neurons.
Ruth, single mommy to 3 quasi-adults