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Swedish soldiers wear 'toxic' uniforms: report

Swedish soldiers wear 'toxic' uniforms: report

Published: 30 Oct 2012 07:44 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Oct 2012 07:44 GMT+01:00

Swedish soldiers are not allowed to wear the light beige desert uniform, used in Afghanistan, while at home on leave or even on the plane. The pesticide, known as permethrin, which the uniforms are impregnated with, has been deemed too dangerous for the public. However, the Swedish Armed Forces say the uniforms are safe for the soldiers.

“We don’t want permethrin products scattered across the country. It is a strong toxin," said Tomas Westerlund of the Armed Forces to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

“Many think it is cool to run around town or on the metro wearing their uniform when on leave. But it contains toxins that could be transferred to nature or to one’s kids.”

Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical, which is widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. It keeps the soldiers safe from disease carried by ticks or mosquitoes.

The Armed Forces are adamant that wearing the uniforms is not dangerous for the soldiers and that the dry desert air breaks down the substance faster.

According to SvD, uniforms in the US have been impregnated with the toxin for twenty years. Tests have shown some cases of skin irritation and even nerve damage in laboratory animals, but this has mainly shown up in test where the animals ingested the toxin.

The conclusion of the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, was that permethrin could be carcinogenic in large doses but that the amount coming off uniforms probably wouldn’t be potent enough to constitute a danger.

However, it is agreed that the substance is “very dangerous” if it entered the drinking water. It has also been deemed very dangerous for water-living organisms as well as pets. The EPA is currently investigating the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of permethrin, according to SvD.

In Europe, the usage of the substance as been questioned and 25 out of 29 products containing permethrin have disappeared off the market.

According to Hams Muilerman of the Pesticide Action Network, Pan Europe, permethrin should be used with caution. The substance works as a neurotoxin on humans; it affects the brain.

“To me it would seem as if it would be hazardous to one’s health to wear clothes containing permethrin for 6 month at a time,” he told SvD.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:49 October 30, 2012 by millionmileman
It's savfe for the soldiers but they don't want it scattered around Sweden. What am I missing?
21:12 October 30, 2012 by matona1
i hate army uniforrm it symbolise evil
07:47 October 31, 2012 by Grokh
funny how people are trying to find a cure for cancer when stuff like this happens all the time , basically all the stuff we eat/breathe is filled with traces of some form of pesticide and they keep making the pesticides stronger.
20:30 October 31, 2012 by k2kats
Why are these sons, brothers, fathers, nephews and uncles considered disposable?

There is already ample scientific data showing that permethrin is hazardous. Even if that were not true, the precautionary principle should be applied to our protectors as well as our citizens.
02:57 November 13, 2012 by R5S
Permithrin treated clothing is freely available in the USA, and recommended by the University of Rhode Island as an effective and safe prevention for Lyme disease. The treatment is garanteed for the life of the clothing, or 70 washes. While it may pose risks for long term usage, the alternative illnesses (borelia/ Lyme disease; malaria, etc) also pose a real risk in some places (even though the Swedish medical authorities would like us to believe that borelia is rare in Sweden and requires minimal treatment for full cure). Some consider the risk of such insect bourne illnesses to be much greater than that of the clothing. In Sweden Permithrin was used in a totally irresponible way in the past, by spraying piles of lumber in the woods to stop insect damage. It's also used in Sweden on horses and to eliminate lice in kids hair.
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