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Insect Repellents: EPA Registered vs. Unregistered Pesticides

Before they can be marketed, most insect repellents must be registered by EPA. EPA registration of insect repellent active ingredients indicates the materials have been reviewed and approved for human safety and effectiveness when applied according to instructions on the label. Products registered by EPA will display an EPA Registration Number on the product label (for example, 123456-1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of products containing active ingredients that have been registered by EPA.

There are insect repellent products for sale in the United States that are not currently required to be registered by EPA. In the 1990ís, the active ingredients in these unregistered products were evaluated for safety. At that time, it was determined the active ingredients posed minimal risk to human health in the percentages found in products on the market. Based on this minimal risk determination, EPA decided that products made from these ingredients should be exempt from registration. However, products made from these ingredients have not been evaluated for effectiveness. EPA is considering whether repellent products should be removed from the exemption because effectiveness is critical to disease prevention. In addition, EPA is considering whether to re-evaluate the initial safety determinations for the ingredients considered to be minimal risk. Examples of ingredients used in unregistered insect repellents are citronella oil, cedar oil, geranium oil, peppermint and peppermint oil, and soybean oil. Learn more about unregistered products.

You should be aware that there are illegal products in the market that do not qualify for the exemption, nor are they registered. Repellents that do not bear an EPA registration number have not been evaluated by EPA, and EPA cannot advise consumers about the effectiveness of these products.

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