The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled their new repellency awareness graphics produced in response to a need for clearer labelling of those products intended to protect users against ticks and mosquitoes. Many people fail to use bug repellents appropriately, giving them a false sense of security when it comes to Lyme disease and other vector-borne infections.
One of the key failings of current product labels is that consumers cannot quickly identify whether a product is effective against ticks, mosquitoes, or both. The longevity of the protection is also often hard to ascertain from labeling, meaning that someone could spray the product on their skin once at the beginning of a hike and assume they are protected for the duration of that hike when, in fact, they really need to reapply the product every two or three hours.
Standardised Labelling for Tick and Mosquito Repellents
Not all companies will be displaying the new labels on their products as the EPA will permit the graphics only on insect repellents that have met current testing requirements. The use of the graphics is voluntary but one would imagine that companies manufacturing effective repellents will want to quickly take up the opportunity to appeal to customers concerned with the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne and mosquito-borne infections.
2015 Launch for New EPA-Approved Labels
The graphics were designed following input from focus groups, online surveys and consultation with manufacturers, in addition to public comment. Labels will being to appear on products early in 2015, allowing manufacturers time to get approval for use of the labels and to redesign their current labels.
Three versions of the graphic exist: one showing mosquitoes and ticks, and one for each individually. Mosquito bites can lead to infection with West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis and also chikungunya, a virus new to the US but which is spreading rapidly. Ticks not only carry Lyme disease bacteria but also spread ehrlichiosis, bartonella, babesiosis and other infections.
Tick-Repellent Clothing Ineligible
The best way to avoid these infectious conditions is to prevent tick and mosquito bites by repelling the insects. The new labels base their expected efficacy times for the insect repellents on multiple studies and only apply to products applied to the skin. Clothing with in-built tick repellent, or permethrin applied to clothing will not be eligible to carry the new EPA repellency graphics.
Tick Repellency Labels like SPF Labels
The EPA has compared the new graphics to those used on sunscreen to provide easily understandable sun protection factor (SPF) information. In the US there are around 300,000 cases of Lyme disease each year, although reporting of the disease is so haphazard that accurate numbers are difficult to establish. Using an effective tick repellent is the best way to stay protected against Lyme disease.