EPA Guide to De-Bugging

June 16, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

Though they don’t attach brands to chemical names, the EPA maintains a useful and thought-provoking list of insect repellents on their EPA.gov Web site. Among the approved and regulated active ingredients are Permethrin (think “Buzz Off” clothing) and the oils of eucalyptus (which has a synthesized version) and citronella — two “natural” options. The thing about the natural oils, in my experience, is that it seems to be hard for manufacturers to make repellents with eucalyptus or citronella that are not, well, oily. That thick coat of repellent necessary to bring protection levels up to those of DEET also traps heat, and there’s not much worse than being oily and sweaty on a summer day.