APPENDIX II-C: Why
Pesticide Spraying for
The Table of Contents portions of this appendix is taken from:
Overkill: Why Pesticide Spraying for
A Report by
William C. Sugg, III, Director, Maine Environmental Policy Institute
Matthew L. Wilson, Director, Toxics Action Center
This report is available free of charge online at www.toxicsaction.org.
To receive additional copies of this report, send $10 per report, or $7 each if ordering more than ten copies to:
Published July, 2001
The most important person to acknowledge in this paper is Rachel Carson. Her book Silent Spring is the wellspring from which this continuing work on pesticides flows. Forty years ago she wrote,
"We should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us."
- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962.
For the first edition of this report, which was written specifically for
For the second edition of the report, we would like to thank Rachel Zegerius
This report is based on work previously published in many different places. Some groups and resources stand out as being particularly valuable to anyone researching this issue, and to us in particular as sources of information, quotations, references, inspiration, and guidance: The No Spray Coalition of New York; Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides; Pesticide Action Network of North America; Extension Toxicology Network; Environmental Risk Analysis Program (ERAP) of Cornell University Center for the Environment; and Rachel Massey and Peter Montague of the Environmental Research Foundation.
The current policies by state and municipal officials in the Commonwealth
that allow and encourage the spraying of toxic pesticides to combat the
Spraying toxic pesticides to combat WNv, may cause more harm than good, exposing the population to a new public health threat through exposure to toxic chemicals. In fact, spraying may even have the paradoxical effect of increasing the mosquito population by affecting its predators.
Pesticides are Dangerous and Threaten Public Health
The toxic pesticides proposed for spraying are harmful to human health,
wildlife, and ecosystems. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to the
effects of toxic pesticides. In both laboratory studies and occupational
settings, the toxic pesticides being used for WNv mosquito control in
The Spraying for Pesticides Has Not Been Proven Effective
Adulticiding, or the spraying to kill adult mosquitoes, has not been proven effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that ground and aerial spraying is usually the least effective mosquito control technique.12
Ground spraying in cities is problematic as urban landscapes make it difficult for thorough application of the pesticide.
Spraying May Cause More Harm than Good
In addition to exposing the public to toxic pesticides, spraying leaves communities with a false sense of security making them less likely to use effective, non-toxic control measures. Long-term spraying may actually increase the number of mosquitoes by destroying predators that feed on mosquito larvae and adults. Additionally, mosquitoes that are sprayed, but not killed, by the pesticides may become resistant, live longer, become more aggressive biters, and have increased prevalence of WNv within their bodies.
While the effects of
Promoting Safer Alternatives
The good news is that
Transmitted primarily by bird biting mosquitoes, WNv can also infect humans and other animals. See the transmission cycle of West Nile Virus, and life cycle of the mosquito. Most human infections of WNv go unnoticed or illicit ordinary flu-like symptoms. Some cases lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and can be fatal. The elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems may be particularly vulnerable to serious illness resulting from the virus.64
A New York City Health Department survey of blood samples taken from people
who lived in northern
In 2000, WNv reappeared in
Response to WNv involves input and regulation from a variety of governmental agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, are responsible for the development and modification of federal surveillance and response tactics, to be used as guidelines by individual states. To view the federal plan visit: www.cdc.gov.
The CDC will receive weekly updates from towns, detailing significant information about WNv.
The CDC guidelines for surveillance, prevention, and control of WNv for 2000 stated: "Adult mosquitoes should be chemically controlled within approximately a 2-mile radius around the area where a WNv positive dead bird or infected mosquitoes are found."13a
The CDC's revised guidelines for 2001 are less aggressive than last year when it comes to broadcast spraying of adulticides. The guidelines now state, "Control activity should be initiated in response to evidence of virus transmission [to humans], as deemed necessary by local health departments."12
As to the recommended spray radius, the revised guidelines leave it up to local officials. " There is no simple formula for determining how large an area to treat around a positive surveillance indicator or a suspected or confirmed human case of WN virus. Nor is there adequate information to determine the degree of vector population suppression that must be attained, or for how long this suppression must be maintained to reduce risk of disease."12
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has devised a surveillance and response plan, which recommends methods to be used by municipalities. 63a
In 2000, the Commonwealth recommended spraying in areas found to contain evidence of avian WNv infection. Despite objections from concerned residents across the Commonwealth, officials will still consider spraying when infected birds or mosquitoes carrying the virus are found. State officials will recommend spraying if a human case of infection is found.
The Commonwealth’s surveillance plan includes the modification of the Arbovirus Surveillance Program (ASP), originally initiated in 1957. This past winter, MDPH convened four workgroups to revise the ASP and promote collaborative efforts between municipal health departments in order to address the threats of WNv. The purpose of the ASP is to test birds, mosquitoes, horses, and humans in order to detect disease or infection with the virus. The revised ASP sets comprehensive and flexible guidelines in five areas:
To view the entire MDPH Surveillance and Response Plan visit http://www.state.ma.us/dph/wnv/SandR.PDF.
The decision to spray a particular community is in the hands of the local
Board of Health. Most often Boards of Health defer to the Commonwealth’s plan,
which is implemented by the Control Districts. Yet, municipalities do have the
authority to halt or restrict spraying operations. For example, the cities of
Decisions are made on a town-by-town and case-by-case basis, in order to accommodate the needs and wants of the residents. However, in the case of a public health emergency, state and federal agencies can assume jurisdiction and override town decisions.
Three main chemicals were used against mosquitoes in public health
situations last year in the state of
Other chemicals under review for use in killing adult mosquitoes in New England include two organophosphates; malathion and naled, and two other synthetic pyrethroids; permethrin (Ambush, Pounce) and sumithrin (Anvil).
To kill larvae, some
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the nation’s primary pesticide control law, classifies pesticide ingredients into two categories – active and inert. The active ingredients are those which are designed to kill pests while the inerts are added to make the active ingredient more potent and easier to use. Inert ingredients can make up a significant percentage of the material that is actually sprayed. Yet these inerts, which are often highly toxic, are often classified as "trade secrets" under law and are not listed on the label. The true nature and health threat of the petsicide are difficult to analyze.
Last year the synthetic pyrethroid resmethrin (Scourge) was used by many municipalities to control adult mosquito populations. It consists of the active ingredient resmetherin, and the inerts, piperonyl butoxide and petroleum distillates. The inerts do not kill the insects, but increase the potency of the resmetherin.
Semisynthetic derivatives of the chrysanthemumic acids have been developed as insecticides. In general, the term "pyrethrins" refers to the natural insecticides derived from chrysanthemum flowers; "pyrethroids" are the synthetic chemicals, and "pyrethrum" is a general name covering both compounds.29
Synthetic pyrethroid compounds vary in their toxicity, as do the natural pyrethrins. Inhaling high levels of pyrethrum may bring about asthmatic breathing, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, convulsions, facial flushing and swelling, and burning and itching sensations. The most severe poisonings have been reported in infants.85 Pyrethrin is extremely toxic to aquatic life, such as bluegill and lake trout, while it is slightly toxic to bird species, such as mallards. Toxicity increases with higher water temperatures and acidity.24 The EPA is scheduled to re-evaluate the health effects of the pyrethroids in 2002.64
A report in the New York Daily News (
Pyrethroid insecticide poisoning can be of unexpectedly long duration. Pyrethroids can produce reflex hyperexcitability and fine tremor, salivation, hyperexcitability, choreoathetosis (involuntary movements), and seizures. Local effects are also seen: skin contamination producing numbness and tingling, and ingestion producing gastrointestinal irritation.95
The Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk
Links between pyrethroids and hormonal disruption 83a
Several studies indicate that pyrethroids disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking the effects of the hormone estrogen, which can cause breast cancer in women and lowered sperm counts in men. A Mount Sinai School of Medicine study examined four pyrethroid pesticides, including sumithrin. It concludes, "Overall, our studies imply that each pyrethroid compound is unique in its ability to influence several cellular pathways. These findings suggest that pyrethroids should be considered to be hormone disruptors, and their potential to affect endocrine function in humans and wildlife should be investigated."38
A study at the Roger Williams General Hospital of Brown University on pyrethroids concludes, "Chronic exposure of humans or animals to pesticides containing these compounds may result in disturbances in endocrine effects."23
A Cambridge University report issued in June 2000 by the Royal Society in England called for international cooperation to deal with the dangers posed by endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pyrethroids, and recommends reducing human exposure to these chemicals.4a
Links between pyrethroids and childhood brain cancers
A report of pesticides and childhood brain cancers published in Environmental Health Perspectives revealed a strong relationship between brain cancers and pyrethroids used to kill fleas and ticks. The study concludes, "The specific chemicals associated with children's brain cancers were pyrethrins and pyrethroids (which are synthetic pyrethrins, such as permethrin, tetramethrin, allethrin, resmethrin and fenvalerate) and chlorpyrifos (trade name: Dursban)."91
Links between pyrethroids and neurological damage
A study conducted by the Physiological Institute at
A study conducted by the Department of Environmental Toxicology at Uppsala University in Sweden studying mice found that "low-dose exposure" to pyrethroids "resulted in irreversible changes in adult brain function in the mouse" when exposed during the growth period. This occurred at levels of exposure less than what was found to affect adult mice. The study also found "neonatal exposure to a low dose of a neurotoxic agent can lead to an increased susceptibility in adults to an agent having a similar neurotoxic action, resulting in additional behavioral disturbances and learning disabilities."27
A separate study found that pyrethroids cause "membrane depolarization, repetitive discharges and synaptic disturbances leading to hyperexcitatory symptoms of poisoning in animals." This study found that only 1% "of sodium channel population is required to be modified by pyrethroids to produce severe hyperexcitatory symptoms."75
Links between pyrethroids and thyroid damage
A pesticide study conducted on rats concludes, "Exposure to organochlorine, organophosphorus, and pyrethroid insecticides for a relatively short time can suppress thyroid secretory activity in young adult rats." The study also said a decrease in body weight seen "suggests that pyrethroid insecticides can inhibit growth rate."2 "We tested four frequently encountered pyrethroids, fenvalerate, sumithrin, d-trans allethrin, and permethrin, for estrogen and progesterone agonist/antagonist activities. Through these hormonal pathways, exposure to certain pyrethroids may contribute to reproductive dysfunction, developmental impairment, and cancer."36
The larvicide methoprene (Altosid) is considered to be a slightly to
practically nontoxic compound in EPA human toxicity ratings, which do not
include adequate testing for hormone disrupting potential. However, its effects
on wildlife and ecosystems -- especially lobsters -- could prove devastating.
The compound is dumped into water bodies like sewers, wetlands, ditches, and
ponds for the purpose of killing mosquito larvae.
Methoprene is a compound that mimics the action of an insect growth regulation hormone. It is used as an insecticide because it interferes with the normal maturation process. In a normal life cycle, an insect goes from egg to larva, to pupa, and eventually to adult (see mosquito life cycle). Methoprene artificially stunts the insects' development, making it impossible for insects to mature to the adult stages, and thus preventing them from reproducing. To be effective, it is essential that this growth inhibitor be administered at the proper stage of the target pest's life cycle. Methoprene is not toxic to the pupal or adult stages. Treated larvae will pupate but adults do not hatch from the pupal stage.28
Methoprene is slightly toxic to birds.51,124 Non-lethal effects that may affect survival of the birds did appear at acute oral doses of 500 mg/kg. These effects appeared as soon as 2 hours after treatment and persisted for up to 2 days and included slowness, reluctance to move, sitting, withdrawal, and incoordination.47 These effects may decrease bird survival by making them temporarily more susceptible to predation or by affecting reproductive and parenting behaviors.
Methoprene is slightly to moderately toxic to fish.117 Methoprene residues may have a slight potential for bioconcentration in bluegill sunfish and crayfish.118 Methoprene is very highly toxic to some species of freshwater, estuarine, and marine invertebrates.28,28a
Studies at the laboratory of researcher Charles McKenney have shown that methoprene, an insect JHA (juvenile hormone analogue) used in mosquito control, inhibits the metamorphic success of larval estuarine shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio) and crabs (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) with exposure to concentrations which proved lethal to insect pests, including salt marsh mosquitoes. Differential survival and developmental rates of larval shrimp and crabs indicate that certain larval stages are more sensitive to exposure than others.67
Methoprene is believed to have a significant impact on lobsters. Research
into the toxic effects of methoprene and other mosquito control chemicals on
lobsters is ongoing. The Lobster Institute at the
Hans Laufer, a
Birth defects, frogs and methoprene
Use of methoprene is also a significant concern due to the effects of the
retinoids that are formed when the compound breaks down after exposure to
sunlight. Retinoids, a class of chemicals
closely related to vitamin A, can cause birth defects in humans and may be
contributing to the global epidemic of skeletal deformities in frogs.64 Dr. David
Gardiner, a research biologist at the
Exposure to retinoids could also make frogs more susceptible to infectious diseases, Gardiner says: "The kinds of chemicals that would target development of limbs would target all organ systems," including the immune system. Frogs with abnormal legs would also very likely have abnormal immune systems. This could explain why some frogs are now suddenly falling victim to infectious agents that they resisted for millions of years.
Peter Montague, of the Environmental Research Foundation points out: "The pesticide regulators at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have missed a key feature of a chemical (methoprene) whose safety they regulate. It shows once again that relying on risk assessment leads to bad public health decisions. EPA's risk assessments have routinely failed to evaluate the breakdown by-products of the chemical pesticides that the agency has deemed safe enough to allow as residues on our dinner plates. It also means that thousands of pesticides now in common use need to be re-tested to see if their breakdown by- products are dangerous to humans or other species."72
BTi is a biological pesticide that contains naturally occurring soil bacteria in different strains that target specific insects. BT's are not known to be toxic to animals, birds, humans, fish or beneficial insects. BTi is required to have EPA warning and caution labels, as is the requirement by law for any registered pesticide. BTi and variants are widely used in organic farming. Some trade names are Aquabac, Teknar, and LarvX. Bacillus sphaericus (VectoLex) is another naturally occurring "biopesticide." It was registered in 1991 for use against mosquito larvae, which ingest the bacteria and die after the toxin in the bacteria disrupts their gut function.
Based on extensive testing, no harmful effects to the public are expected to occur when biopesticide products are applied according to label directions. Because there is the potential for skin and eye irritation, applicators are warned to avoid direct contact with the granules or a concentrated spray mix. Various tests revealed no expected harm to non-target organisms.111
Although these compounds are not used in agriculture, related ones are approved for use in organic farming. It is unwise to broadcast these biopesticides widely. If their use is not limited, there is a chance that insects may develop immunity to these important pesticides, thereby limiting their effectiveness for mosquito control and for use by organic farmers.
More research needs to be done on the ecological effects of biopesticides. What non-target invertebrates that are important in the food chain are also affected by their use? How will a potential decrease in this part of the food chain affect fish and amphibians, and the birds and animals that feed on them?
Malathion is one of the most widely used organophosphate insecticides in the
Shown to be mutagenic, a possible carcinogen, implicated in vision loss, reproductive and learning problems, immune system disruption and other negative health effects in human and animal studies, damaging to non-target organisms, and containing highly toxic impurities, malathion has a legacy of serious problems.84
Organophosphates, in the same chemical class as the nerve gas Sarin, act as neurotoxins, disrupting the nervous system by inhibiting the enzyme cholinesterase. High exposures can produce fatal poisoning.97 In April 2000, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) committee reviewed a series of studies on mice and rats exposed to malathion. Based on this review, the committee concluded that there was "suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity."112 For the moment, malathion remains listed by EPA as "not classifiable" with regard to carcinogenicity.64 Recent evidence suggests that organophosphates such as malathion can cause Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL).123,70
In June of 2001, the Glens Falls Post-Star reported that 37 fourteen and fifteen year-old girls became ill at a softball game after being exposed to malathion, which was being applied to an area adjacent to the field. (See news story)
During a malaria mosquito eradication spray program in
In laboratory animals, malathion exposure has caused stomach ulcers,
testicular atrophy, chronic kidney disease,98 increased liver
and kidney weights, adverse gastrointestinal tract effects,9 and changes in the
adrenal glands, liver, and blood sugar levels.43,4 Use of malathion by
Between 1957 and 1971 Japanese school children experienced a tremendous
increase in cases of myopia (nearsightedness), which correlated with the
increased use of organophosphate insecticides, including malathion.48 98 percent of the
children examined from Saku, an agricultural area where malathion was regularly
applied, had reduced visual keenness. Other examples of what is now called
'Saku disease' in both children and adults were reported throughout
Eradication programs for pests such as mosquitoes and fruit flies expose thousands of people to malathion applied in aerial applications. This type of pesticide application often provokes complaints of allergic reactions and flu-like symptoms.101,52,93 Impurities and by-products present in malathion can further disrupt immune system function.20,100 Immunosuppression may enhance susceptibility of mammalian systems to bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection or possible increased tumor formation.99,84a
Ironically, use of these pesticides for WNv mosquito control could actually end up suppressing human and avian immune systems in the areas sprayed, putting each species at greater risk than before of spreading, contracting, and becoming seriously ill from WNv.
Malathion is lethal to beneficial insects, snails, microcrustaceans, fish, birds, amphibians, and soil microorganisms. Sublethal exposure of these species can cause a variety of behavioral and physiological abnormalities.84
Naled (trade name Dibrom) is an organophosphate with many of the same characteristics and concerns as malathion. Naled can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans: that is, it can over stimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at high exposures, can cause respiratory paralysis and death. One of the byproducts of degradation of Naled is dichlorvos, another registered organophosphate. This compound is of toxicological concern.115
Researchers at the Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and
Environmental Risk Factors in
The pesticide trichlorfon is a common ingredient in the mosquito pesticide dibrom (naled). In one study, trichlorfon was found to cause a "severe reduction" in brain weight (and shape) in test animals exposed. The timing of exposure to the developing offspring appeared to be the key factor in determining neurological damage (known as the "critical brain growth period"). It occurred when the chemical was administered between 40-50 days gestation for the guinea pig, which scientists say, correlates with the brain growth spurt period for the animal.68
Russian scientists studied the growth rates of fish called Bream (Abramis brama) after exposure to the dibrom/naled contaminant dichlorvos. The first major effect detected was a significant reduction in the growth rates of the fish. Researchers believe it may be due to the subtle neurotoxin actions of the pesticide and its effects upon the areas of the brain involved in feeding or food search mechanisms.40
Naled is characterized as very highly toxic to bees and aquatic invertebrates. It is moderately to highly toxic to fish and slightly toxic to upland game birds and waterfowl.29a There is potential for chronic risk from Naled to estuarine invertebrates.115
Temephos (Abate) is a non-systemic organophosphate insecticide used to control mosquito, midge, and black fly larvae. It is used in lakes, ponds, and wetlands. It also may be used to control fleas on dogs and cats and to control lice on humans. The compound may also be found in mixed formulations with other insecticides including trichlorfon. As an organophosphate, it has many of the same concerns and characteristics as malathion and naled.
Symptoms of acute exposure are similar to other organophosphates and may include nausea, salivation, headache, loss of muscle coordination, and difficulty breathing.119 Temephos produces signs and symptoms typical of cholinesterase inhibition at moderate levels of exposure, but mortality does not occur unless very large doses of the compound are administered.33,119 Temephos may greatly increase the observed toxicity of malathion when used in combination with it at very high doses.33 The compound has the potential to cause significant toxic effects (depression of the activity of the enzyme cholinesterase in the blood and the brain) in mammals exposed over long periods of time.
Tests with various wildlife species indicate that the compound is highly toxic to some bird species. The compound is also highly toxic to bees.51,30a Temephos shows a wide range of toxicity to aquatic organisms, including salmon.47 Freshwater aquatic invertebrates such as amphipods are very highly susceptible to temephos, as are some marine invertebrates.50 Temephos is very highly toxic to saltwater species such as the pink shrimp,50 and presumably to lobsters as well.
Temephos has the potential to accumulate in aquatic organisms. In one study, the bluegill sunfish accumulated 2300 times the concentration present in the water.119
These compounds are applied as a film to water surfaces. Agnique reduces the surface tension of the water and makes it difficult for the larvae and pupae to attach. The film also blocks the breathing tubes of larvae and pupae causing them to drown. Resting males and egg-laying females that come in contact with the film will also drown. Mosquito control begins minutes after application. Laboratory and field testing has shown the film to remain potent for 10 to 14 days on standing water.1 Although there is no evidence that this compound is harmful to human health, it is certainly a significant alteration to an aquatic ecosystem if broadly applied to ponds and wetlands, as it will come into prolonged, intimate contact with invertebrates, fish, birds, frogs, otters, and other ecosystem inhabitants.
Oils, like films, are used to suffocate larvae, pupae, and emerging mosquitoes. They are derived from petroleum distillates and have the trade names Bonide and BVA2. The EPA admits that misapplied surface oils may be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.113 More research is needed to determine the effects that Agnique MMF and other surface oil films may have at an ecosystem level.
There can be numerous "inert" ingredients in pesticides that are added to improve its storage, handling, application, and effectiveness. Many of these compounds are potentially harmful, even more so than the active ingredient in the pesticide. Since the technical (chemically pure) grade of a pyrethroid is usually formulated (mixed with carriers, solvents, synergists, etc.) for use in commercial pest control, the toxicity of these other ingredients must be taken into consideration when assessing the toxicity of a formulated product. Researchers found a ten-fold difference in toxicity between formulations with the same active ingredient, but with different carriers, solvents, etc.73 Some mixtures of Anvil are made up not only of 10% artificially manufactured Sumithrin but 10% piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a suspected carcinogen, and 80% "inert" ingredients such as polyethylbenzene, which is listed by the EPA as being "potentially toxic."82
PBO is added to make the pyrethroids more effective. It acts by inhibiting naturally occurring enzymes that would otherwise degrade the insecticide. PBO breaks through the insect's defense, making the insecticide more powerful. The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs suspects PBO of being a carcinogen. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances also lists it as a suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, and a suspected neurotoxicant. It has also been reported as a suspected reproductive toxicant.49,,83 There is also some evidence that PBO-pyrethroid mixes can affect the human immune system.22
Polyethylbenzene (PEB), also known as heavy aromatic solvent naphtha (petroleum), is widely used in pesticides. PEB is listed on the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs' Inert Pesticide Ingredients List No 2, which is a list of 64 substances the EPA "believes are potentially toxic and should be assessed for effects of concern. Many of these inert ingredients are structurally similar to chemicals known to be toxic; some have data suggesting a basis for concern about the toxicity of chemical." PEB is related to ethylbenzene, which is listed as a suspected reproductive toxicant and a suspected respiratory toxicant by the EPA. The white mineral oil, also known as hydro treated light paraffinic petroleum distillate, is also listed on the EPA's Inert Pesticide Ingredients List No. 2 of potentially toxic chemicals.83
The threat to agriculture
All of the aforementioned chemicals are designed to kill insects, many of
which are responsible for pollinating wild and cultivated plants in
Pesticides Risk Assessments: An Inexact Science
There are some consistent themes and results that arise from any governmental agency review, approval and subsequent environmental application of pesticides. When chemical company scientists come up with the latest pesticide, the evaluation process used to determine its 'safety' often does not take into account how the compound actually behaves in nature. Factors like synergistic effects with other chemicals, even those that the active ingredient is mixed with -- so called 'inerts' -- are not thoroughly evaluated.
The toxic effect on humans, particularly at risk populations like the elderly, children, and pregnant and nursing mothers, is not thoroughly examined. Studies of the long-term subtle effects on endocrine systems, behavior, intelligence, cancer, etc., are either not done or are inadequate. The chemical manufacturer usually does the testing and supplies the data. Rarely taken into consideration are effects on animals and ecosystems. For example, how will frogs, fish, birds, otters, etc., be affected if all arthropods -- so important in the food chain -- are wiped out from the pond they live in or near?
The chemical company then uses public relations and lobbying efforts to gain agency and public approval for the new pesticide. The compound is released into the environment and the unintended consequences begin. Sprayed broadly over fields, in neighborhoods, in wetlands, from planes and trucks, or dumped into sewers and bodies of water, its effects are seen in unpredicted and insidious ways. People become sick, others develop multiple chemical sensitivity disorder, some die. Lobsters, birds, bees and butterflies are found sick, dead, or exhibiting bizarre behaviors.
It can be years before a dangerous compound,
once approved and even mandated for use by the government, is banned or certain
uses of it restricted. Consider the examples of lead in paint and gasoline, DDT
in pesticides, DES and thalidomide for pregnant women. On
The 'risk assessment' models used by the state to evaluate the chemicals, although they enjoy widespread use in the regulatory community, are inadequate in determining whether the introduction of these compounds into the environment will adversely affect humans, wildlife, and entire ecosystems.
As Peter Montague of the Environmental Research Foundation points out in his criticism of risk assessment, "Current policies such as risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis give the benefit of the doubt to new products and technologies, which may later prove harmful. And when damage occurs, victims and their advocates have the nearly-impossible task of proving that a particular product or activity was responsible."71 In order to protect public health and the environment, our standard should be equivalent to that of the FDA's, where a product is considered harmful until it is proven safe.
"Comparative risk assessment (CRA) is chiefly a means for increasing the political power of 'experts' and reducing the political power of the general public. The experts will decide what is important and what is safe, and will be allowed to impose their views on the public. But CRA is not an objective, scientific enterprise; it is distinctly a political process. CRA 'experts' have no more legitimate claim to authority or power than anyone else in society. Using CRA will inevitably lead to new environmental injustices, as the voices of the public are excluded from the debate, and the 'experts' -- many of them the same people who created major environmental problems we now face -- make more bad decisions in a political vacuum."69
Montague puts forth a model based on the Precautionary Principle,71 which says in summary:
1. People have a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm.
2. The burden of proof of harmlessness of a new technology, process, activity, or chemical lies with the proponents, not with the general public.
3. Before using a new technology, process, or chemical, or starting a new activity, people have an obligation to examine "a full range of alternatives" including the alternative of doing nothing.
4. Decisions applying the precautionary principle must be "open, informed, and democratic" and "must include affected parties."
The Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle states: "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."103a
The most common argument that activists will come across when pointing out the real dangers of pesticides and their use for mosquito control will be the dose. The officials and applicators will assure the public that the levels of chemicals they will be exposed to will be so low, and so infrequently applied, that there will be no effect on the environment and human health, and/or that the compound's toxicities quickly degrade. This is not true for two reasons. First, many of these chemicals have significant to subtle negative health and environmental effects at extremely low levels. Secondly, they are never applied as planned. There will always be mistakes, spills, and over sprays. The compounds, although analyzed for safety and degradation characteristics under ideal laboratory conditions, will be applied by real people in the real world.
What percentage of the mosquito population in a sprayed area is killed by
the pesticide? This question seems the most important, but we face a lack of
knowledge regarding the answer. If the efficacy of spraying approaches zero,
what's the point of exposing our bodies, ecosystems, and wildlife to toxic
chemicals in the first place? "We need to address this, because if we're
just spraying all over and not doing a damn bit of good, then this is a waste
of time and money, and it's also a hazard," says Dr. David Pimentel, a
professor of entomology at
Most spraying efficacy studies are done under outdoor "lab" type conditions, often with caged mosquitoes placed at measured distances from spraying, at differing pesticide potencies. The tests do not take into account the many variables that are involved in ground spraying. As mosquitoes are mobile, and hide under leaves and in vegetation, extrapolating the efficacy numbers from these studies to actual spraying programs is questionable.
"In order to work, the insecticide must hit the mosquito directly," says Dr. Pimentel. "But since spray trucks are only fogging the street side of buildings, I doubt that more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the poison is actually hitting its target. And you have to put out a lot of material to get that one-tenth of a percent onto the mosquito."31 Other scientists have estimated that less than 0.0001% of ULV (Ultra Low Volume) pesticide sprays actually reach the target insects.89 So for every droplet that reaches a mosquito, hundreds of thousands more droplets circulate pointlessly in the environment.65
after local governments throughout metropolitan
Some mosquito-control experts from outside the region, however, are
skeptical. "I find it hard to think that they could consistently get 85
percent control spraying in an environment with so many trees and houses and
other obstructions," said Judy Hansen, a past president of the American
Mosquito Control Association who has run the mosquito-control program in
The CDC agrees that, "ground applications are prone to skips and patchy coverage in areas where road coverage is not adequate or in which the habitat contains significant barriers to spray dispersal and penetration."12 In a 1998 study, it took 2-3 times more insecticide to kill 90% of the mosquitoes in residential settings versus open areas. Such a high saturation is not permitted under current labeling safety guidelines.37
It would be unfair to downplay the seriousness of a severe infection of West Nile Encephalitis. A severe infection can prove painfully debilitating, or even fatal. Fortunately, it is extremely unlikely that someone will get sick and die from WNv, even in areas where it is endemic. While determining any one person's risk level is difficult, it is important to point out the range within which uncertainty exists.
A New York City Health Department survey of blood samples taken from people who lived in northern Queens, the epicenter of the 1999 outbreak, showed that 19 out of 677 tested positive for the virus, but none had become seriously ill, and all either reported no symptoms or mild illness, such as a low-grade fever. The survey concluded that between 1.2 percent to 4.1 percent (between 533 and 1,903 people) of the 46,000 residents in that three-square-mile area had been infected. Of the infected group, four people in the sample had non-specific aches, pains or fever.77
WNv was first identified in the
Michael Gochfeld, Professor of Environmental and Community Medicine at the
The only human epidemic of
In that epidemic an estimated 94,000 people were infected by the virus, of
which about 400 developed clinically apparent encephalitis confirmed by
virological studies. Fifteen of those people, most over the age of 65, died. In
What's behind the big push by the vast majority of government officials to
spray toxic pesticides when the
There is also money to be made by spraying pesticides. Pesticide
manufacturers and applicators stand to profit from manufacturing and applying
sprays for WNv mosquito control. A pesticide applicator in
Spraying pesticides for mosquito control may be worse than ineffective, it
may even make the
Second, as ecologist Garret Hardin puts it "every biocide selects for its own failure." This means that mosquitoes can and will become resistant to chemical efforts to destroy them. Overuse of pesticides may create resistant super-mosquitoes that require ever increasingly toxic chemicals to kill them.25
Thirdly, toxic chemicals may be leaving mosquitoes that are sprayed but not killed in an immuno-compromised state, thereby allowing them to accumulate and spread more WNv than healthy mosquitoes. "Every time a mosquito spray plane or truck sprays these proven genetically damaging pesticides over the area, they are very likely increasing the amount of subtle genetic damage in the mosquito population, and hence, increasing the number of mosquitoes with genetic flaws which could in theory, allow the encephalitis virus to take hold and grow more rapidly," speculates pesticide researcher Richard Pressinger.92 Walter Tabachnick, director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, disputes this theory: "To my knowledge there is no information that indicates sub-lethal doses influence movement (of WNv within a mosquito's body). This, too, seems unlikely to me to have any major role in mosquito biology and disease epidemiology."104 Clearly, more research is needed on this question.
Dr. Ray Parsons, who heads the Harris County Mosquito Control Division in
Finally, the public living in sprayed areas may feel a false sense of security. If they feel that fewer WNv mosquitoes are around, they may be less likely to use other proven measures to prevent mosquito breeding on their property and bites to themselves.
Increasing international trade and travel create new opportunities for
exchange of diseases quickly and effectively across regions. Paul Epstein of
According to Epstein, back-to-back weather extremes in 1998 and 1999 probably encouraged the proliferation of WNv and the mosquitoes that carry it. In a recent article in Scientific American he writes, "The mild winter of 1998-99 enabled many of the mosquitoes to survive into the spring, which arrived early. Drought in spring and summer concentrated nourishing organic matter in their breeding areas and simultaneously killed off mosquito predators, such as lacewings and ladybugs, which would otherwise have helped limit mosquito populations. Drought would also have led birds to congregate more, as they shared fewer and smaller watering holes, many of which were frequented, naturally, by mosquitoes." Later in the summer, heavy rain created new mosquito breeding opportunities. Higher temperatures also tend to increase mosquito activity. "Computer models indicate that many diseases will surge as the earth's atmosphere heats up, [and that] signs of predicted troubles have begun to appear," he writes in the article. 25a,64
Joseph Finke, a
The pesticides used for mosquito control are designed to kill bugs, and lobsters are bugs, or more specifically, arthropods. They share many life characteristics and a common evolutionary history with insects. They both have chitinous external skeletons and develop and grow from larvae through a series of molts. Although there is clear evidence that lobsters and other aquatic arthropods are susceptible to pyrethroids,8 temephos,90 and methoprene,5,6,15,90,94 many public officials and some scientists have been unwilling to pin the devastation of the Long Island Sound lobster fishery on the 1999 spraying for West Nile virus.
The lobstermen, however, are not holding back. They lay the blame for the loss of their $45 million fishery firmly on WNv spraying, and have filed a $125 million putative class action lawsuit against insecticide manufacturers.107
According to figures released
by the National Marine Fisheries Service,
"If it [pyrethroid insecticide] gets into the water, it will kill
aquatic life," says pesticide expert Richard Bromilow of
Bayer is currently conducting experiments on the effects of methoprene and other pesticides on lobsters, but he has not yet completed or published study results.104
Hans Laufer, a University of Connecticut professor emeritus, said he became alarmed after listening to lobstermen describe finding egg-bearing lobsters that had molted before their eggs hatched, in effect shedding their eggs along with their shells. Laufer, who has studied reproductive hormones in crustaceans for 20 years, questioned the use of one larvicide that interferes with a mosquito's ability to molt. Insects, Laufer said, are biologically related to lobsters. The larvicide, methoprene, is known to harm small crustaceans, Laufer said. It acts in a similar fashion as nonylphenols, disrupting endocrine hormones and interfering with reproduction. "In mosquitoes, it acts as an anti- hormone, and that's what's killing them," Laufer said. "It's doing exactly the same thing to lobsters, exactly the same."21
Even if the insecticides are not directly killing the lobsters, they
triggered the population crash, say other investigators. Richard French of the
Clearly, more research is needed on the effects that mosquito control
pesticides might have on lobsters, particularly sub lethal effects at low
levels. If exceedingly low doses, even in the part per billion range, can cause
behavioral, reproductive, and immune system impairments, the results for
One very important aspect of WNv mosquito control operations that receives
little attention in traditional risk assessment/cost benefit analysis by public
agencies is the potential threat of litigation related to the broadcast of
toxics. To date there are suits relating to personal injury of pesticide
applicators, personal injury to residents, and a class action suit for
destruction of the
A coalition of environmental groups sought an emergency order to halt the
spraying of Anvil, a pesticide that had already been used in
Five workers who sprayed pesticides for a city contractor last summer to kill mosquitoes carrying WNv have filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, contending that improper training and prolonged exposure to the chemicals made them sick. In an affidavit, the men detailed how they were repeatedly saturated with the pesticide Anvil during their nightly spraying shifts, while driving or riding without protective clothing on the backs of trucks. The former sprayers and truck drivers also said they handled and loaded pesticides without training or supervision, contrary to state and federal regulations. In sworn affidavits and interviews with the New York Daily News, the men said they've been plagued by ailments including fatigue, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, loss of hair, nausea and even sexual dysfunction. The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, is representing them in making the claim.87
Kent Smith was assigned to one of the company's three all-terrain vehicles and sent to spray Yankee and Shea stadiums and various golf courses and cemeteries. He sometimes worked 16 hours a day, and his skin was constantly drenched with the pesticide, he said. "They only had two respirators in the whole place and wanted us to share them," he said. "I refused and forced them to get me my own respirator. There wasn't even a place to wash up after you finished spraying. Just a fountain where you washed your hands," he said. While the men were paid $11 an hour, the city paid Clarke $650 an hour per truck. After investigating their claims, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the firm for five serious safety violations and fined it $6,750.41
In the biggest suit so far, commercial fishermen who claim the dramatic
decrease in their lobster harvest was caused by pesticides used against
mosquitoes to combat the
When cases of WNv show up in
Government officials, from the town to state and federal level, can make a proactive, effective, and also non-toxic response to WNv. Imagine a van driving through neighborhoods with knowledgeable technicians getting out at every house, doing an inspection for potential mosquito breeding pools, pointing out ineffective screens, showing residents grills, toys, tires, sagging gutters, etc., in their yard that might harbor larvae. Each property could receive a 'report card' and specific instructions on what to do to correct problems. The technicians could also hand out information about WNv, list hotlines and information resources, discuss repellents, biopesticides, and talk about the relative risk that diligent residents have from WNv illness. This sort of approach would be safer, would ensure residents that officials were engaged, and would arguably be cheaper and more effective than spraying.
Community level guidelines for safe and effective mosquito control 65
Some characteristics of Culex mosquitoes: a WNv carrier17
Do not use DEET, especially on children! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges fourteen cases in which individuals reported seizures associated with exposure to DEET. Twelve were children, three of whom died.116
DEET can also interact with other chemicals to produce severe toxic effects on the nervous system, and may have played a role in Gulf War Syndrome. Based on existing information about DEET's health effects, EPA determined in September 1998 that the labels on some DEET-containing products were misleading. Under EPA's new requirements, it is illegal to label DEET-containing products as designed for children or "safe for kids." However, EPA chose to allow a grace period of more than four years during which products with old labels can be sold,116 so stores can still sell products with misleading safety claims. Treat clothing, rather than skin, whenever possible, and wash off repellents with soap and water after returning indoors.65
Bite BlockerTM is a plant-based repellent that was released in the
Citronella repellents and candles are non-toxic and fairly effective
Studies show that citronella can be an effective repellent, but it provides shorter complete protection time than most DEET-based products. Frequent reapplication of the repellent can partially compensate for this.32
Canadian researchers studied, under field conditions, the efficacy of three citronella-based products (lotion, milk and sun block formulations (active ingredients: 10% oil of citronella and 5% terpene of citronella) to protect against biting mosquitoes. All of the repellents "reduced the number of mosquitoes biting by 95% over the 1st and 2nd 30 minutes after application."57
The same group of researchers assessed the efficacy of 3% citronella candles and 5% citronella incense in protecting against mosquito bites under field conditions. "Although significantly fewer bites were received by subjects at positions with citronella candles and incense than at nontreated locations, the overall reduction in bites provided by the citronella candles and incense was only 42.3% and 24.2%, respectively."58
The manufacturer of Natrapel citronella-based insect repellent (Tender
This bath oil is more often mentioned for use as an 'unofficial' black fly repellent, and received considerable national media attention several years ago when it was reported to be effective as a mosquito repellent. When tested under laboratory conditions against Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, this product was shown to be only mildly effective with a half-life of 30 minutes.103
Electronic repellents don't work
The CDC and several other sources report that Vitamin B and "ultrasonic" devices are NOT effective in preventing mosquito bites.
Q. Where did
A. West Nile virus has been commonly found in humans and birds and other
Q. How long has
A. It is not known how long it has been in the
Q. How many cases of
A. In 1999, 62 cases of severe disease, including 7 deaths, occurred in the
Q. I understand
A. One of the species of mosquitoes found to carry
Q. Do the findings indicate that
A. It is too early to speculate about the permanent establishment of
Q. Is the disease seasonal in its occurrence?
A. In the temperate zone of the world (i.e., between latitudes 23.5¡ and
66.5¡ north and south),
Q. What is
A. "Encephalitis" means an inflammation of the brain and can be
caused by viruses and bacteria, including viruses transmitted by mosquitoes.
Q. How do people get
A. By the bite of mosquitoes infected with
Q. What is the basic transmission cycle?
A. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which may
circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. Infected mosquitoes can then
Q. If I live in an area where birds or mosquitoes with
A. No. Even in areas where mosquitoes do carry the virus, very few mosquitoes--much less than 1%--are infected. If the mosquito is infected, less than 1% of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances you will become severely ill from one mosquito bite are extremely small.
Q. Can you get
Q. Is a woman's pregnancy at risk if she gets
A. There is no documented evidence that a pregnancy is at risk due to
Q. Besides mosquitoes, can you get
A. Infected mosquitoes are the primary source for
Q. How many types of animals have been found to be infected with
A. Although the vast majority of infections have been identified in birds, through September 2000 CDC has received reports of WN virus infection in horses, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits, and raccoons.
Q. Can you get
A. There is no evidence that a person can get the virus from handling live or dead infected birds. However, persons should avoid barehanded contact when handling any dead animals and use gloves or double plastic bags to place the carcass in a garbage can.
Q. Can I get infected with
A. West Nile virus is transmitted by infectious mosquitoes. There is no
documented evidence of person-to-person or animal-to-person transmission of
Q. How does
A. Following transmission by an infected mosquito,
Q. What proportion of people with severe illness due to
A. Among those with severe illness due to
Q. If a person contracts
A. It is assumed that immunity will be lifelong; however, it may wane in later years.
Q. Is there a vaccine available for WNv?
A. No. Currently there is no vaccine for West Nile Virus. Peptide
Therapeutics Group announced in August of 2000 that it had been awarded a
Fast-Track Small Business Innovative Research grant by the US National
Institutes of Health to develop a new vaccine to prevent
Q. Is there a treatment for WNv?
A. Currently, there's no treatment that will cure the disease. Doctors may
recommend remedies to cope with the symptoms of mild cases. Severe cases of
Q. Who is at risk for
A. All residents of areas where virus activity has been identified are at
some risk of getting
Q. What are the symptoms of
A. Most infections are mild, and symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe infection may be marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and, rarely, death.
Q. What is the incubation period in humans (i.e., time from infection to
onset of disease symptoms) for
A. Usually 3 to 15 days.
Q. I think I have
A. Contact your health care provider if you have concerns about your health. If you or your family members develop symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, and severe headaches, you should see your doctor immediately.
Q. I am a health care provider in
A. Suspect WNv cases are reportable to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800.
Q. How do health care providers test for
A. Your physician will first take a medical history to assess your risk for
Q. Do birds infected with
A. In the 1999
Q. How can I report a sighting of a dead bird(s) in my area?
A. Contact the Massachusetts Bureau of Health at 617-624-6000 or contact the WNv hotline at 866-627-7968.
A. There is a published report of
Q. Can infected dogs or cats be carriers (i.e., reservoirs) for
A. West Nile virus is transmitted by infectious mosquitoes. There is no
documented evidence of person-to-person, animal-to-animal, or animal-to-person
Q. Can a dog or cat infected with
A. No. There is no documented evidence that
Q. Should a dog or cat infected with
A. No. There is no reason to destroy an animal just because it has been
Q. What can I do if aerial or truck spraying of pesticides occurs near my house?17
1. Keep windows closed during and immediately after spraying. If possible, also turn off window air conditioners.
2. Stay inside and keep children and pets inside during spraying and until the next morning after spraying.
3. Bring in or cover portable outdoor furniture, toys, laundry, pet dishes and tools.
4. Cover larger outdoor items such as barbecue grills or sand boxes. Swing sets and items that cannot be covered should be rinsed thoroughly after the spraying.
5. Cover ornamental fish ponds because pesticides are highly toxic to fish.
6. Cover vegetable gardens if you can with plastic sheeting; wash any exposed vegetables before storing, cooking or eating.
7. Remove shoes when entering the home after spraying because pesticides can be tracked indoors and remain toxic for months in synthetic carpet fibers. Pesticides used for mosquitoes are most easily degraded in direct sunlight and are sheltered when inside where they do not degrade quickly.
8. Hose off window screens, door handles and hand railings after spraying occurs to avoid direct contact.
9. If you suffer symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, blurred vision, breathing difficulties, or irritation of the eyes, nose, lips, mouth or throat, see your doctor immediately.
This part of the appendix is taken from:
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The third part of the appendix is taken from: