The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a voluntary "repellency awareness graphic” that would be displayed on bug repellents. It represents a small step forward but falls short of providing the full measure of information that consumers need to make informed decisions about products that provide the greatest benefit while minimizing the risks of exposure to toxic chemicals. After more than a year of research on bug repellents, EWG concluded that the lack of consistent efficacy testing and labeling of skin-applied repellents unnecessarily put consumers at risk from diseases borne by mosquitoes and ticks. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,650 American were infected with West Nile virus in 2012 and 286 of them died. Confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease rose to more than 30,000 in 2012, but the CDC has estimated that the true number of newly-diagnosed cases is probably 10 times greater. Currently, there is no convenient way for consumers to compare the general efficacy of different repellents. The efficacy testing of various products against tick species is inconsistent. Consumers have no easy way to evaluate the efficacy of botanical pesticide products, technically called minimum-risk pesticides.
When Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies before a Senate spending committee on Thursday, she will likely face a lot of questions about toxic...