Daily News Archive
From January 25, 2001

Six Applicators Sick After Spraying Anvil for Mosquito Control

Six men are sick from spraying Anvil from their trucks to control West Nile Virus in New York City last summer, reports the New York Daily News and New York Times. The men complain of fatigue, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, hair loss, nausea and sexual dysfunction and report that their ailments started after working for Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management, which was hired by the NY Department of Health for $4.6 million.

The New York Daily News reports that the men made a recent complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stating that Clarke supervisors provided little or no training or information on the hazards associated with applying the chemical and did not provide safety gear. When the men complained to Clarke officials of their health problems, the complaints were simply dismissed.

Samuel Gowrie, a nighttime spraying, told the New York Daily News, "We had no training whatsoever. They told us we had nothing to be afraid of, that Anvil wasn't dangerous." Gowrie also stated that the truck he was driving had no air-conditioning, so he kept the windows down, allowing the pesticide to drift inside the truck. After the first day on the job he had a bad headache, itchy skin, nose bleeds, constant sneezing, and chest pains. Having no health insurance, Gowrie told reporters that he did not go see a doctor.

Kent Smith, Gowrie's co-worker, told reporters he would occasionally work 16 hour days and would be covered with the pesticide. Smith stated, "There wasn't even a place to wash up after you finished spraying. Just a fountain where you washed your hands."

The pesticide smell "made me nauseous, and I started vomiting in the truck. I lost control of the vehicle and ricocheted from one side to the other. All the Anvil spilled out of the truck.," said Corey Gregory, another driver for Clarke.

Anvil is a restricted use pesticide under federal and state law, meaning that only licensed pest control applicators can apply the chemical. Pest control applicators that are under the direct supervision of a licensed applicator can apply the chemical if they have at least 48 hours of training.

Clarke spokesperson, Laura McGowan told the New York Daily News that the men were supervised by one of Clarke's certified applicators, since each man had a mobile phone to communicate with their supervisor. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) spokeperson Peter Constantakes, stated that state law requires the supervising licensed applicator to "be physically present and within voice contact."

OSHA area director, Jim Mendelson, and DEC are investigating Clarke for possible violations. Clarke denied any negligence or wrongdoing. The State Department of Health spokesperson Kristine Smith, told the New York Times that they have received 14 reports from doctors, since the spraying began last year, who attribute their patients health problems with the Anvil pesticide spraying. Attorney Joel Kuperferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project is representing the spray truck drivers.