New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced that his office issued cease-and-desist letters to seven companies that market products with claims that the products prevent or protect against Zika virus even though the products are known to be ineffective for that purpose. The letters demand that the companies selling these products stop advertising them as “Zika-protective” or “Zika-preventive.”
The Attorney General also issued a consumer alert warning New Yorkers about the deceptive ads and directing them to evidence-based Zika-prevention measures that have been recommended by public health authorities.
“New Yorkers are understandably concerned about Zika virus and are looking for ways to protect themselves and their families,” Schneiderman said. “Unfortunately, some companies are taking advantage of public concern about Zika to peddle products that simply don’t work. My office will not tolerate deceptive advertising of products that provide only a false sense of security against a real threat.”
“The only products that provide effective protection from mosquito bites contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and an insect repellent called IR3535––all other products are a waste of money and may put you at risk of being bitten,” said New York City health commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We continue to remind women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to not travel to a Zika-affected area––that includes most of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Because of the risk of sexual transmission, partners of pregnant women should consider staying away from these areas, too.”
Each of the seven companies that were issued cease-and-desist letters advertised either ultrasonic devices or botanical oil-based products with claims that the products would prevent or protect against Zika virus by repelling mosquitoes, even though the products contain no EPA-registered insect repellents with at least one of the five active ingredients recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The makers of ultrasonic devices claim that they repel mosquitoes by emitting a high-frequency buzz. Numerous scientific studies have found that ultrasonic devices do not repel mosquitoes and may even attract them. The makers of botanical oil-based products, including wrist bands, bracelets, patches, and stickers, claim that their products contain ingredients that repel mosquitoes. Common botanical ingredients, including oil of geranium, cedar, lemongrass, soy, and citronella, are not Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with at least one of the five CDC-recommended active ingredients. The New York State Department of Health has warned that these products have limited effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes.
Products that are currently being sold to New York consumers that claim to prevent the Zika virus, even when these products contain none of the CDC-approved active ingredients, include:
As of July 15 there were 346 reported cases of Zika virus infection in New York City, according to the city’s Department of Health.
Source: New York State Office of the Attorney General; August 3, 2016.