What every consumer needs to know to make an informed choice
What does Toxic mean?
Toxicity Categories by the EPA are used to alert users to special hazards of pesticide products. Signal words categorize products based on product formula toxicity in what is known as the “Six-Pack,” (oral, dermal, inhalation, and other effects like eye and skin irritation). Toxic products should not be re-applied more than indicated on the label. There is an EXEMPT category of the EPA for minimum risk ingredients in insect repellents that do not require EPA registration. These are based on ingredients EPA has designated as ‘safe’ and some are vegetable-based oils which may be food grade and can be re-applied as needed. Others are essential oils which may not be food grade, and care should be taken with high concentrations of essential oils. EPA rates insect repellents from categories I being the most toxic to category IV being the least toxic. An EPA-EXEMPT natural-based formula that is safe, would be in category IV if the EPA would require it to be registered.
What does Natural truly mean?
- A natural formula contains ingredients found in nature and can be nontoxic or toxic
- A natural formula based on edible vegetable oils will not break down into anything toxic, is biodegradable
- A nontoxic natural formula can be reapplied as often as desired with no adverse health effects
- A nontoxic natural formula in a water-based emulsion is not flammable like most alcohol-based and toxic-based formulas
Explanation of Signal Words and corresponding TOXICITY Categories
Making an Informed Choice
The Table below analyzes the insect repellents rated by Consumer Reports in its May 2016 Insect Repellent Review, but uses more useful ratings and categories for consumers to make an informed choice. Note: Field studies are required by EPA since this demonstrates a more real situation and because mosquito populations are not contaminated by products for each time point. USDA reported results are shown where available to demonstrate differences in lab studies. CR is the results reported by Consumer Reports, May 2016.
Download a PDF of the table here.