Is there a risk associated with the insect repellent DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) commonly found in aquatic environments?
DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is the active ingredient of most commercial insect repellents. This compound has commonly been detected in aquatic water samples from around the world indicating that DEET is both mobile and persistent, despite earlier assumptions that DEET was unlikely to enter aquatic ecosystems. DEET's registration category does not require an ecological risk assessment, thus information on the ecological toxicity of DEET is sparse. This paper reviews the presence of DEET in aqueous samples from around the world (e.g. drinking water, streams, open seawater, groundwater and treated effluent) with reported DEET concentrations ranging from 40-3000 ng L-1. In addition, new DEET data collected from 36 sites in coastal waterways from eastern Australia (detections ranging from 8 to 1500 ng L-1) are examined. A summary of new and existing toxicity data are discussed with an emphasis on preparing a preliminary risk assessment for DEET in the aquatic environment. Collated information on DEET in the aquatic environment suggests risk to aquatic biota at observed environmental concentrations is minimal. However, the information available was not sufficient to conduct a full risk assessment due to data deficiencies in source characterisation, transport mechanisms, fate, and ecotoxicity studies. These risks warrant further investigation due to the high frequency that this organic contaminant is detected in aquatic environments around the world. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.