This blog is an exercise of exploration, both internal and external, of the pale blue dot and its inhabitants, through one pair of eyes amidst the many..

DEET Tales in the tropics

When I went to rural Malaysia this past month in the Heart of Borneo, I was extremely hesitant to put any DEET on me when living in the rainforest.

The risks associated with mosquito-borne diseases are real, but they are also simply a part of life in the tropics. One cannot expect to work in tropical regions applying mosquito repellent every few hours. If you are concerned about mosquito bites, wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed shoes. The trade-off might be that you'll be a little hotter, but at least DEET is not being diffused all over the immediate surroundings -- especially in an area where the locals directly depend on the natural resources around them for their livelihoods (using the river for drinking water, bathing, etc). DEET does not dissolve easily in water (<0.1g/100mL @ 20°C), and is potentially toxic to fish and humans.

Even when using DEET, there's no point in using 95%+ DEET. The costs of exposure to higher concentrations outweigh the benefits of its effectiveness as a repellent. The 7.0% works almost just as well. A better alternative is eucalyptus oil, or better yet... Victoria Secret's Bombshell perfume! 

The chart below from the Journal of Insect Science shows different types of repellents and their effectiveness over time.