I have begun contributing online articles to Explore magazine and was researching clothing choices to prevent ticks. Through my research, I learned that mosquito and tick repellent clothing in Canada is extremely rare, though popular in the United States. Only one company, Mark’s, has a line of mosquito and tick repellent clothing – WindRiver – that has been approved by Health Canada.
After speaking to a Mark’s representative, I learned that this was a 14-year process to gain Health Canada’s approval. WindRiver’s clothing is treated with a chemical called permethrin, used to repel insects, that lasts through 70 washes.
What is Permethrin and why is Canada anti-permethrin for bug repellent?
Permethrin is a chemical that is widely used as a mosquito and tick repellent. Permethrin is most often used in raw form in the agriculture industry for fresh produce and even on commercial planes. For the average consumer, you can see permethrin used most often as insect repellent. Permethrin sprays and treated clothing are extremely popular in the U.S. and readily available, and yet in Canada the same clothing is almost completely banned.
In 2017, permethrin was taken off the shelves in Canada. With the rise of Lyme disease and climate change causing ticks to come out earlier and earlier, why is this method of treatment not permitted? Permethrin is already commonly used in agriculture and even on commercial planes, so why are there restrictions when it comes to personal use on people and pets?
About WindRiver – The Process of Approval
Iain Summers, VP of Product Innovation at Mark’s began the process of approval to sell a line of mosquito and tick repellent clothing 14 years ago. With permethrin clothing being approved for sale in the United States, Summers did not anticipate any difficulty in getting approval to sell the clothing in Canada.
Up until 2008, Canadian health regulators typically aligned with approvals in the United States, but with a misalignment with the EPA regarding BPAs in plastic bottles, Canada pulled away and began to enforce regulations on their own.
Costing Mark’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even more with ongoing research and testing, WindRiver was approved in 2018 with a lot of conditions. Specifically, Health Canada’s guidelines are that the brand can only use nylon and polyester for the clothing, and they cannot use it for socks, children’s clothes, or pets.
Communities that Support It
Mark’s has had backing for their use of permethrin from several communities. Public Health Canada has helped Mark’s over the years to bring awareness to the benefits of permethrin clothing. As well, Lyme disease communities are grateful for the tick-repellant technology, hoping that the growth in popularity may slow the rate of Lyme disease.
The number of Canadians with Lyme disease is steadily climbing. According to Canada.ca, 144 cases were reported in 2009, compared to over 2,00 reported in 2021.
Review of WindRiver Clothing
WindRiver uses 0.5% permethrin in an odorless and invisible treatment that lasts up to 70 washes. Through the use of a bonding process, WindRiver fabrics are able to repel insects using permethrin. A fabric liner separates the treated fabric away from the skin, at the request of Health Canada, a feature that Mark’s is working to remove for future products.
Different insects act in different ways to permethrin. For example, mosquitos become disoriented and unable to bite you when near permethrin and ticks are incapacitated on contact with permethrin. This makes permethrin clothing ideal for the outdoors.
To test out the power of permethrin, Mark’s sent me a few samples from their WindRiver line to test it for myself.
The look – My honest feedback in terms of design is that I looked like a park ranger. The combination of the slack-like pants and the collared, button-down tops gave me a “Don’t feed the animals” vibe.
I preferred the baseball cap to the bucket hat. I know bucket hats are in, but they look too much like infant sun hats for my liking. Ha ha! Either way, a hat is essential if you don’t want any little buddies digging into your hair and setting up shop.
It was nice having different colours to mix and match because that makes it a little less Ranger Rachel-ish.
The feel – The clothing itself was extremely comfortable. The material was lightweight and very stretchy.
It was also exceptionally durable, I can tell these are going to be my go-to camping clothes because they will hold up well to wear and tear.
The fit – I found the sizing to run a little on the big side. You may want to order one size down, or rock slightly baggy pants if you want.
The thought of having to remove a tick freaks me out! Not only do they carry the risk of Lyme disease, but there are also many other diseases and illnesses associated with the insect. I can understand how some people may be wary of a chemically treated piece of clothing but remember that there is a liner between you and the treated material.
I’m happy to have an extra layer of protection. I just feel bad going out with my kids, because I’m all suited up and they’re out there in whatever.
No matter what you wear- check for ticks after your outdoor adventures!!!