epa announces new labeling for bug repellent

EPA Announces New Labeling for Bug Repellent

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a new system of labels for insect repellent. Similar to sunscreen, the new labels show consumers how many hours of protection they will get from mosquitos and ticks.

This graphic is designed to increase public knowledge of pesticides and encourage safe, effective use of insect repellent.

“We are working to create a system that does for bug repellents what SPF labeling did for sunscreens,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in a news release. “By providing vital information to consumers, this new graphic will help parents, hikers and the general public better protect themselves and their families from serious health threats caused by mosquitoes and ticks. We are encouraging manufacturers to submit applications so they can add the graphic to their registered repellent products.”

There is currently no uniform system of identification for insect repellent—and that’s what the EPA is looking to change. With the new labeling system, consumers will be able to easily compare insect repellents inside the store to find the product that gives them the best protection or most appropriate protection for their situation.

The new insect repellent labels have been in the works for years at the EPA. Over the past few years, the EPA has conducted focus groups, gotten input through surveys, and worked with manufacturers to create the graphic.

The graphic will begin to appear on insect repellent labels in early 2015. The use of this graphic is currently voluntary. In order to participate, a company is required to submit new or existing scientific data to support their proposed graphic and prove the length of protection. The test results must support the graphic as well as meet strict safety standards set forth by the EPA.

Insect repellent works to greatly reduce the risk of being infected by insect-carried diseases. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. Mosquitoes can transmit life-changing diseases like West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. The Centers for Disease Control estimates approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. contract Lyme disease every year from ticks. The rate of these diseases continues to climb nationwide, according to a statement from the CDC and EPA.

Insect repellents are full of powerful chemicals that—although very useful for preventing bites—can be deadly to consumers if used improperly. When applying insect repellent, the EPA recommends:

  • Applying repellent only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use underneath clothing.
  • Follow the label directions to ensure proper use.
  • Do not spray directly into face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth, and use sparingly around ears.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Avoid breathing in repellent.
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas.
  • Do not use near food.

Always remember to wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water when returning indoors, and make sure they are stored out of the reach of children.

For more information about the new labeling system, visit the EPA website.