The EPA is looking for feedback on its new "Repellency Awareness Graphic" for insect repellent. The graphic would look something like what you see below, a circle with information about the types of insects it repels and the average number of hours it works.
Overall I like the idea of indicating the types of insects that can be repelled in a clear graphic because it takes away the uncertainly about previous labels saying "lasts for hours" or "long lasting protection." However, I also find that labels like they are proposing can be misleading. The purpose of a graphic with average times seems to indicate that it will actually work under "normal" circumstances, but I rarely find that I fit the "normal" range. Usually I'm hiking, sweating, teaching kids, and my clothes are rubbing and wearing against my skin. I don't know about you, but I rarely believe sunblock bottles when they say their product lasts hours, and I'm not convinced that insect repellent labeling would be any more accurate.
I would rather see something like a colon between two numbers, such as 4:2, which would suggest the product lasts 4 hours just sitting around at a picnic and 2 hours sweating and being active or even in direct sunlight. Optionally they could suggest just cutting their "repel" times in half for sweating and outdoor activities. I'd be up for more truth in advertising.
The EPA won't be making this labeling mandatory, so only some companies may choose to use it, if they apply for permission and decide it's useful.
Interestingly enough the labels don't say anything about the maximum number of times someone should apply the repellent, risks to health, or the environment. I've never seen this on a bottle of insect repellent, but I think it's time. Years ago I found myself in a difficult situation after applying a name brand insect repellent. Once I sprayed it on I began vomiting immediately. I had a severe allergic reaction. I didn't ingest it, only had it on my skin. There was no information about how to handle skin absorption poisoning so we washed it off and I spent hours hugging the porcelain god. That experience makes me wary of most repellents.
What do you think about the EPA's new suggested labeling system? Want to comment? You can go to the EPA website and upload your thoughts http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0406;fp=true;ns=true.