OTC 2016: An Industrial-scale Weapon Against Mosquito-borne Illnesses

Other than the fact that they serve as a food source for certain birds and fish, it's hard to find any redeeming qualities about the mosquito. The tiny bloodsuckers can make working and playing outdoors uncomfortable…or much worse.

Mosquitoes are unrivaled in their ability to cause human suffering; malaria, dengue, Zika and other diseases transmitted by the insects kill more than 1 million people a year, according to the American Mosquito Control Association. As maps on The Travel Doctor website show, these illnesses are particularly widespread in tropical regions – where many of the world's oil and gas workers earn their livelihoods. Oil and gas installations in these regions are often remote, and evacuating an ill worker for medical treatment can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Applying insect repellant with the active ingredient diethyltoluamid, or DEET, can keep mosquitoes from biting, but an executive with personal protective equipment (PPE) supplier Red Wing Shoe Co. contends that a more "industrial-scale" defense is desirable for the harsh field conditions that oil and gas workers typically encounter.

"We're looking for a way to protect workers in extreme conditions," Tito Warren, Red Wing's vice president for global sales and distribution, told Rigzone at the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. "We wanted to create a product that withstands extreme work environments."

Warren said that Red Wing's answer is to integrate a military-grade mosquito repellant into its PPE garments. The cotton and cotton blend fabrics in Red Wing's VectorGuard flame resistant (FR) and non-FR coveralls and other garments are treated with permethrin, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticide that has been used in military combat uniforms for more than two decades, he explained. The permethrin tightly bound in the fabric causes mosquitoes to feel a burning sensation as soon as they land on a potential host, he added. According to Red Wing, third-party tests show a dramatic reduction in bites to skin in two-minute intervals. Moreover, the company claims the protection remains effective through 50 washes.

"Fifty washes is usually the life of coveralls in the oilfield," Warren said.

Matthew V. Veazey has written about the oil and gas industry since 2000. Email Matthew at mveazey@downstreamtoday.com

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