A new graphic for insect repellent labels will show consumers how many hours the product will protect them from mosquitoes and/or ticks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.
"We are working to create a system that does for bug repellents what SPF [sun-protection factor] labeling did for sunscreens," Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in an agency news release.
Use of the graphic is voluntary and insect repellent makers who want to use it must submit an application that includes test results proving how long their product works. The graphic is limited to products applied directly to the skin and could start appearing on insect repellants early next year.
Current labels on skin-applied insect repellents do a poor job of informing consumers about which insects a product protects against and how long it works, according to the EPA. Officials say the new graphic will make it easier for people to select an appropriate insect repellent.
"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," Jones said. "We are encouraging manufacturers to submit applications so they can add the graphic to their registered repellent products."
The EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge people to use insect repellents and take other measures to protect themselves from biting insects that carry serious diseases.
Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. Ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. There are about 300,000 cases of tick-transmitted Lyme disease in the United States each year, according to the CDC.