NEW YORK — The great outdoors is a little less great when you’re surrounded by mosquitoes, tics and other pests.
Given that, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved insect-repellent apparel produced by Buzz Off Insect Shield, a Greensboro, N.C.-based company. Seven years in the making, the patent-pending process binds repellent into a garment. It required elaborate testing, said Haynes Griffin, chairman and chief executive officer of Buzz Off.
“This is the first new weapon in 50 years in the battle against insects,” he said.
Permethrin, a man-made version of an organic repellent found in chrysanthemums, is the active ingredient used in the process. It deactivates when applied to the skin and dissipates quickly, but binds to clothing.
“It’s odorless and colorless. The only way to tell a garment has this capacity is the insects aren’t biting you,” Griffin said.
Buzz Off’s 12-person research and development team developed the process. The product has been wear-tested by the U.S. Armed Forces, among others. It is said to last for at least 25 washings, although dry cleaning wears away the permethrin.
Founded in 2001, the company has the capacity to employ 100 workers during peak production cycles.
Orvis and Ex Officio are the first manufacturers to have developed shirts, pants, shorts and socks with Buzz Off. Both brands appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and travelers.
With Lyme disease and, to a lesser degree, the West Nile virus, raising concern among the general public, Buzz Off is counting on its insect-repellent apparel to catch on with a wide range of people.
The firm is pursuing other manufacturers and plans to expand distribution this spring. Ex Officio is developing a line of children’s apparel with Buzz Off. The company has spoken with divisions of the U.S. military about producing garments for the troops, but nothing has been finalized yet, Griffin said.
Griffin serves on the board of directors and was the founder of Vanguard Cellular Systems, which was acquired by AT&T in 1999. Richard Lane, president of Buzz Off, previously worked in technical research and development for Polo Ralph Lauren.