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Daily News Archive

From December 3, 2002

New York City Mosquito Spraying Lawsuit Dismissed

According to the New York Times, U.S. District Court Judge John S. Martin dismissed the lawsuit environmentalists filed against New York City over mosquito spraying in July 2000. Beyond Pesticides along with the No Spray Coalition, Disabled in Action, Save Organic Standards - New York, and the National Preparedness Network filed suit against the City of New York in federal court for violations of federal and state environmental statutes in the city's mosquito-control program.

Under the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked the court to stop violations of law associated with the spraying because it threatens the health and safety of New York City residents. The lawsuit charged that the spraying was a violation of the Clean Water Act, the unpermitted and lawful discharge of pollutants into bodies of water; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the placement, disposal and illegal open dumping of hazardous waste near, over and into waterways, air and land; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the use of a pesticide inconsistent with its label.

Beyond Pesticides and other environmentalists charge that spraying is not an effective way to prevent death or illness associated with the insect-borne disease, West Nile Virus. A large part of this has to do with understanding the life cycle of mosquitoes and their biology. Another large part of this has to do with the inability, especially in an urban environment, to hit target insects with typical ground spraying from trucks or by aerial application. While recognizing the public health threat of WNV and given limited pesticide spray efficacy, it becomes even more important to recognize the public health hazards associated with widespread pesticide exposure. The pesticides most commonly used across the country are neurotoxic and have been linked to cancer. Children with respiratory problems, such as asthma, are particularly vulnerable to these pesticides and will suffer disproportionately from exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention state that spraying adulticides, pesticides intended to kill adult mosquitoes, is usually the least efficient mosquito control technique. Aside from adverse health effects posed to humans, adulticiding may actually increase the number of mosquitoes by destroying their natural predators. Additionally, mosquitoes that survive the spraying may become resistant, longer-lived, more aggressive, and have an increased prevalence of the virus within their bodies. Despite these problems, adulticides are often used in the battle to control mosquitoes.

For more information on the lawsuit, West Nile Virus or the least toxic control of mosquitoes for purposes of protecting public health, go to http://www.beyondpesticides.org/mosquito/index.htm or contact Beyond Pesticides.