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New York Becomes First State to Restrict Chemical Used in Insect Repellents

May 10, 1994

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Just in time for bug season, the state is banning insect repellents containing high concentrations of the chemical DEET.

While DEET, or diethyltoluamide, effectively wards off mosquitoes and ticks, anecedotal evidence has linked large doses of the chemical to skin blisters, seizures and three child deaths since it was first used in 1946, said Nancy Kim, who directs the State Health Department’s environmental health division.

A state appeals court upheld the action Thursday, ruling that the state Department of Environmental Conservation can ban products containing more than 30 percent DEET.

It will probably be the end of this week before officials decide how to put the ban into force, Deborah Volberg, a lawyer for the Department of Environmental Conservation, said Monday.

DEET is the world’s most popular insect repellent, according to the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association in Washington.

The association, which represents 440 chemical companies, has not decided whether to appeal the ruling, spokeswoman Connie Neuman said. No other state is proposing a ban on the chemical, she said.

Federal Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Albert Heier confirmed that New York is the first state to restrict DEET. The EPA believes a small number of people may be particularly sensitive to the chemical and recommends it be used sparingly, Heier said from Washington.

The state first tried to ban products containing more than 30 percent DEET in 1992, but the chemical manufacturers association obtained a restraining order.

Kim said a 1991 review found many cases where high DEET concentrations were linked to severe skin reactions and neurological problems including seizures. Doctors also onsidered DEET to be the probable cause of the deaths of three children, although the link was not proven, she said.

Kim said the review also found no proof that high concentrations of DEET provided extra protection against insects.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said the ban on compounds containing more than 30 percent DEET will affect the following products:

Repel Insect Repellent, Ole Time Woodman Jungle Formula, Cutter Formula 100 Maximum Strength, Maximum Protection Off, Maximum Strength Deep Woods Off, Jungle Plus, Ben’s 100 Insect Repellent, Muskol Insect Repellent and Skeeter Stop 100.

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