Read the article in the research*eu magazine online.
SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES REPEL BITING BUGS
Chemical resistance in insects and other arthropods, as well as stricter legislation of the pesticide market and anthropogenic factors, such as climate change, all demand new technologies for controlling ticks and bedbugs. An EU-funded consortium is therefore developing textile technologies to protect European citizens from attack.
Ticks are carriers of human and animal diseases, which are becoming more prevalent as a result of climate change. Bedbugs are also increasing due to climate change, the increased movement of people and reduced susceptibility to pesticides. Although ticks and bedbugs are found in different environments, they have similar behaviour and can be combated using the same biocides.
The EU-funded BETITEX (Development of sustainable textiles against bugs) project was set up to create textile materials for outdoor clothing and home textile products that contain a biocide to repel or kill ticks and bedbugs. ‘The aim of this research is to improve the durability, sustainability and effectiveness of insecticidal and repellent products which are currently on the market,’ says BETITEX coordinator Dr Ariadna Detrell.
At present, a repellent spray containing a biocide is the most common way of controlling ticks and bedbugs. However, not all of them comply with Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 of 2012 on using biocidal products and making them available on the market, due to their toxicity and environmental impact.
‘One of the main issues surrounding the existing biocides is their toxicity to humans, as vapours can be generated due to the high temperatures achieved during the application procedure on textile materials. This fact needs to be considered when scaling up the process in the textile industry, which is not used to working with such chemicals,’ Dr Detrell explains.
Natural, biodegradable or recyclable textile materials used in combination with authorised biocides and eco-friendly textile technologies will help to overcome this challenge. BETITEX has therefore conducted detailed studies of different encapsulation technologies for application on textiles, in order to minimise the toxicity of the treated fabrics.
‘Toxicity can be reduced through the encapsulation of the active substance and its controlled release,’ Dr Detrell says. ‘Different biocides have been studied and embedded using two different technologies: micro- and nano-encapsulation and sol gel. They were then applied to textile materials during the extrusion of polypropylene yarn and also through different textile finishing technologies, such as padding, coating and dyeing,’ adds Dr Detrell. This approach helps to control the repellent or insecticide effect, thereby contributing to a longer lifespan for the biocide. It also leads to greater durability, enabling the effect to be maintained even after the textile has been washed 50 times.
‘Although not all the solutions developed have the same effectiveness, the results are positive’ observes Dr Detrell. ‘In most prototypes, a 100 % mortality rate of ticks and bedbugs was obtained in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, during the project a synergistic effect was achieved, combining specific biocides with specific embedding and application technologies on different fabrics.’
‘Another important point to highlight is that the biocides we used are not the ones most commonly found in products that are already on the market, such as outdoor clothing protecting against ticks and mattress covers protecting against bedbugs. In addition, the key results have been obtained not only at the laboratory scale but also at the industrial scale.’
BETITEX will therefore help to limit human exposure to biocides by reducing the need for and use of repellent spray. It will also offer the possibility of obtaining protective clothing for those venturing into tick-infested areas, while treated household fabrics will ensure that sleepers need not worry about being feasted on by bedbugs in the middle of the night.
About the project:
Coordinated by Gremi Tèxtil de Terrassa in Spain
Funded under FP7-SME: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/110634
Project website: http://www.betitex.eu/
Project video: http://bit.ly/2i5ttGv