Bug Spray How to for Linemen. UPDATED

With the increase in West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease, most Linemen are choosing to wear bug repellant.  

Here is a good analysis on how to use the two main weapons:

Deet and Permethrin.


Permethrin (HEAR IT: Permethrin) should only be used to treat clothing, not skin.  Skin deactivates it within 20 minutes anyway, so it will not help.  Also, permethrin is a neurotoxin and is regulated by the EPA (like other pesticides), so following the safety precautions is very important.  Permethrin is supposed to repel mosquitoes.  This is true if the person is wearing head to toe treated fabrics.  In practical use, however, Linemen rarely wear that much permethrin treated clothes.  Also, it appears that Permethrin does not bond well to many FR fabrics.  So Linemen will end up needing to supplement the protection with DEET or another mosquito protection product.  The other claim of permethrin is that it repels and kills insects that come in contact with the treated fabric.  This is a true statement.  This is why Permethrin is so effective against ticks!  The most important places to spray with permethrin are pant cuffs, Pant waistband, boots, socks, sleeve cuffs and collar. 

If the user decides that tick protection is important enough that they want to treat their garments with permethrin, we recommend that they spray water based permethrin (non-aerosol) on clothing for tick protection. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!!!  This decision to protect against Lyme disease must be weighed in light of the possible long-term negative effect of Permethrin.  As stated earlier, it is not very effective against mosquitoes.   Also, most single layer FR fabrics are thick enough to deter mosquito bites (layered solutions work even better).

Here is a link to a water based, Trigger Spray permethrin product that is designed for Utility workers.   Rainbow

Here is a link to a water based, Trigger Spray permethrin product designed for the Outdoor market.   Sawyer

Deet protects exposed skin, and is great for repelling mosquitoes, but it causes rubber (a.k.a. Lineman gloves!) to become brittle, and can be flammable if applied to fabric, so we recommend that Deet only be used on the neck, face and ears.  You should roll down and button sleeves to protect arms.
(Note: Do not use spray-on deet. It is too sloppy, can be very flammable, and will end up in places where it can cause problems. Towelettes without alcohol are best.  Wash off your hands before working with rubber gloves or sleeves.)

Theres some evidence that deet applied to skin can cause the skin to absorb permethrin (from treated garments that touch the deet treated skin) and this has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome.   The main elements that were discussed (in this Gulf War Syndrome study) were Permethrin/Deet, vaccines administered to provide defense against biological weapons, and severe stress. There was some speculation that these elements worked in combination to cause the various health issues for the troops.

West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease are serious health concerns for most linemen.  However, wearing Deet on your skin and Permethrin treated garments 5 or 6 days a week for 15 to 20 years could cause other long term issues.  For that reason, we recommend using these two chemicals only when there is a real need for them.  Obviously, working in an area affected by the West Nile outbreak is one of the times.

So Permethrin is great for ticks and Deet is very effective for mosquitoes.  Since there are potential health issues associated with long term use of these products, what should you do for daily protection?

Riverside cannot recommend any solution as being totally safe to wear everyday. Companies that need to protect their workers must do their own research and arrive at a solution that they think is the best option for their particular hazards. We think that end-users should understand the risks and should do their own due diligence (and application) and they explore natural alternatives where possible.