Use of DEET Insect Repellent

There has been much discussion about the use of DEET insect repellent because of concern about West Nile Virus. DEET (chemical name, N, N‐diethyl‐meta‐toluamide) is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. It is used to repel biting pests such as mosquitoes and ticks. Products containing DEET currently are available to the public in a variety of liquids, lotions, sprays, and impregnated materials (e.g., wristbands). DEET is designed for direct application to human skin to repel insects, rather than kill them.

DEET is the active ingredient in the most successful & popular insect repellents and is HIGHLY flammable, especially in concentrated form. Products such as Deep Woods Off contain about 26% DEET, which is the most you can buy over the counter. However, 100% DEET spray is available on the Internet.

The best advice is to spray the product ONLY on skin and never on clothes. Since full strength DEET is highly flammable, if an individual exposed to the hazard of electric arc or garment ignition sprayed his or her clothing and there were an accident, there is a significant risk that the clothing will ignite and continue to burn. In this scenario the DEET is serving as a fuel source.

Any insect repellent should be applied to the skin only and not to flame resistant garments.

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How flame-resistant fabrics work

Flame-resistant (FR) fabrics and garments are intended to resist ignition, prevent the spread of flames away from the immediate area of high heat impingement, and to self-extinguish almost immediately upon removal of the ignition source.

Normal work apparel will ignite and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition source such as flame or electric arc. Everyday fabrics will continue to burn until they are extinguished or all flammable material is consumed.