Mosquito Spray Critics Take Meeting From Officials in Davis, CA
(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2005) A public meeting meant to calm tensions between local officials and concerned residents who oppose mosquito spraying in the city of Davis erupted in chaos last week with government officials quickly ducking out and activists taking over the meeting.
The meeting was to be strictly managed with questions from concerned parents, teachers, pregnant women, organic farmers, and others from the community submitted in writing and read aloud by Davis Mayor Ruth Asmundson to a panel of officials and handpicked experts. The meeting started simply enough with a presentation by Dave Brown, manager of the Sacramento/Yolo County Mosquito Abatement District. But when Mayor Asmundson began to read the questions off the cards, the audience grew agitated. About a half hour into the session, one of the members of the audience loudly disputed how a question was read and vocally complained that the format of the meeting was undemocratic.
“This is a democratic meeting,” said the resident, David Bayer. “People have a right to stand up and articulate their concerns.”
Mayor Asmundson abruptly halted the session and dismissed the panel.
“Are we going to be forced to lay down in front of spray trucks?” asked parent and opposition leader Samantha McCarthy of the mayor. “You don’t walk out on the public.”
Rather than leave, McCarthy and other activists quickly seized control and brought order over the room and continued the meeting peacefully, allowing each to express their concerns openly, until the meeting’s scheduled end.
Mayor Asmundson and Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson returned to listen.
The city of Davis, located in Yolo County just east of Sacramento, is known for being a small progressive community where bicycles and organic food stores flourish. Residents there are alarmed by the pesticide spraying taking place in Sacramento. Sacramento has more reported human cases of West Nile virus this year (currently around 70) than any other district in California, a factor that recently prompted Abatement officials to announce that it would aerially spray pesticides over 70,000 acres of urban and suburban land three days in a row. Residents in Sacramento, led by a local group called Organic Sacramento, are equally upset with the approach. (See Daily News story.)
Activists in both counties are asking officials for the information being used to justify the mass spray program and evidence that pesticide spraying reduces the risk of West Nile virus transmission. Such information has not been forthcoming. Activists criticize the abatement district for not warning the public in advance of the spray and for not doing a better job in foreseeing the presense of the virus and boosting up preventative measures such as larval control and public education.
Beyond Pesticides has been helping to provide information and assistance to individuals and groups in both Sacramento and Yolo counties for some time. The groups are also working with Californians for Pesticide Reform in San Francisco who has joined the national Alliance for Informed Mosquito Management (AIMM). Information is posted by the Davis opponents of pesticide spraying at www.stopwestnilesprayingnow.org.
Sacramento/Yolo County Abatement District is using pyrethrins mixed with a synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO). Although the chemicals are considerly less toxic than most used around the country, the toxicity is measured more by its acute effects rather than its potential to effect chronic or long-term health. PBO is a possible carcinogen and pyrethrins are suspected endocrine (hormone) disruptors, which can lead to a host of developmental problems from learning disabilities to cancer. EPA does not assess chemicals for their potential to effect the human endocrine system.
Dave Brown, manager of the abatement district that covers both Sacramento and Yolo counties told local press that if the number of infected mosquitoes increases to high enough levels, he world order ground spraying in Davis and other populated areas.
No scientific data is available on numbers of vector mosquitoes and virus transmission rates to humans. At least seventeen communities that do not expose the public to mosquito pesticides for West Nile have reported lower cases of the virus than their neighbors who spray. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on West Nile virus say that the use of adulticides, pesticides meant to kill adult mosquitoes, are usually the least effective method of mosquito management, CDC officials are known for pressuring local officials to spray.
The CDC is in charge of managing infectious disease in the country such as West Nile virus. The agency relies on registration of the chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), despite EPA’s failure to adequately collect and assess the health and environmental data of the chemicals.
TAKE ACTION: Prevent unnecessary adulticiding in your community and promote effective, intelligent mosquito management. For more information on West Nile Virus and mosquito management see Beyond Pesticides WNV Publications and Tools for Change on the WNV Issues Page. Factsheets are available at Beyond Pesticides: The Truth About Mosquitoes, Pesticides, and West Nile Virus and 5 Steps to Stop the Spraying.