Factory-treated, insect-repelling Army Combat Uniforms that until now were issued only to soldiers deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan, and some other overseas locations, will now be available to all soldiers.
The new uniform, called the “ACU-P,” uses the chemical permethrin to ward off insects such as ticks, mosquitoes, fleas and chiggers. Permethrin has been extensively tested and found to be safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, and Food and Drug Administration, said Col. Pearline McKenzie-Garner, an occupational medicine physician in the Office of the Surgeon General.
“The Army‘s battlefield experience shows that the EPA-approved permethrin fabric treatment … protects the soldier from diseases transmitted by a variety of pests, including fleas, ticks and mosquitoes,” said Lt. Col. Eugene Wallace, product manager for PEO Soldier, clothing and individual equipment.
“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.”
Wallace said that 25,000 soldiers were surveyed about the uniform’s effectiveness at repelling insects and 85 percent of those surveyed said it works. The treatment helps stave off insect-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile Virus.
Permethrin has been used by the Army for decades in a liquid or spray and also in a version that could be applied to a combat uniform.
According to Col. Shawn Lucas, a program manager with PEO Soldier, the problem with the liquid or spray was that soldiers sometimes either forgot to apply it or they applied it in excessive amounts, which in a few cases caused rashes.
With the factory-treated ACU, the permethrin is applied consistently, and soldiers no longer need to remember to apply a bug repellant, Lucas said.
Soldiers won’t have a choice in going permethrin-free the next time they buy new ACUs — all new uniforms will be treated with permethrin. For soldiers with a medical reason to not have permethrin-treated uniforms, such as pregnancy, there is a special-order option to get ACUs without the treatment.
McKenzie-Garner added that the ACU maternity uniform will remain permethrin-free.
ACU-Ps are good for about 50 launderings — the same as regular ACUs. The uniforms can be washed with normal laundry detergent, but should be washed separately from other clothing.
Lucas said the addition of permethrin to the uniform increases the cost by about eight dollars, but soldiers will not have to bear that additional expense because the uniform allowance has been increased to incorporate those production costs.
For more information on permethrin studies, visit the CDC’s website and keyword “permethrin” in the search engine at the top of the homepage.
By David Vergun , J.D. Leipold
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