By David Vergun
Beginning this month, Soldiers in the United States can purchase new fire-retardant, Army Combat Uniforms treated with insect repellent that will help fight insect-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile Virus.
The new replacement uniform, ACU-P, is already being worn by Soldiers serving in Afghanistan and in other overseas locations. The “P” stands for permethrin, the insect repellent that has been extensively tested and determined to be safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, according to Col. Pearline McKenzie-Garner, an occupational medicine physician in the Office of the Army Surgeon General.
“The Army is always concerned with Soldier health, protection and readiness,” said Lt. Col. Eugene Wallace, product manager for PEO Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment. “The Army’s battlefield experience shows that the EPA-approved permethrin fabric treatment is lethal to bugs, and protects the Soldier from diseases transmitted by a variety of pests, including fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. It is also proven safe to wear. This is not just the Army saying this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both advocate the use of permethrin-treated clothing for people who may be exposed to insect-borne diseases.”
About 25,000 Soldiers were surveyed about the effectiveness of ACU-P in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Wallace. “Eighty-five percent said it works.”
He said the ACU-P remains effective for about 50 launderings using normal washer soap or detergent. He added that the factory recommends that they be washed separately from other clothing.
Soldiers have been using permethrin for decades, according to Col. Shawn Lucas, a program manager with PEO Soldier. He said, however, they sometimes forgot to apply it and that it was “hard to gauge the amount applied. Now, Soldiers don’t have to remember (to apply it). The factory applies a consistent and controlled amount. It’s an advancement.”
For more information on permethrin studies, visit the CDC’s website, http://www.cdc.gov/ and keyword “permethrin” in the search engine at the top of the homepage.