CA Says No to Mosquito Spraying, Sacramento Says Yes
(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2005) The Davis Enterprise reported on August 8, 2005, that Gary Goodman, the assistant manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, told county residents that aerial mosquito spraying in Yolo County "is not even on the radar at this point." The news pleased local activists leading the local battle to keep the pesticide planes and trucks out of Yolo County.
Samantha McCarthy of the Davis, CA-based environmental group Better Urban Green Strategies (BUGS) told the Davis Enterprise that the use of pesticides against mosquitoes was an "over-my-dead-body situation." Concerned about the exposure to her six year old child, she said, “They'd better not bring it here. I don't think people in Davis would take it lying down. On second thought, we would lie down -- to stop it.” Mr. Goodman of the vector control district agreed, acknowledging that the progressive town of Davis would not likely give him a warm reception if they decided to spray within city limits.
Unfortunately, for citizens across the county line in Sacramento County, also managed by the same mosquito and vector control district, Mr. Goodman’s agency made a very different decision. Beginning August 8, 2005, the local government began a three-night aerial spray campaign of northern Sacramento County. Pyrethrins, which are linked to cancer and asthma, mixed with piperonyl butoxide (PBO), also linked to cancer, are being sprayed over 51,000 acres. Officials say spraying in the southern part of the county could come later this week. Positive mosquito pools, 13 or more humans infected with the West Nile virus and dead birds have all been identified in Sacramento County.
Ms. McCarthy accused the district of lying about the pesticide and wrongly, and possibly illegally, claiming it is both safe and okay for aerial use. “When they're telling people it's safe, when they're telling people they're following EPA rules, they're not - they're writing their own ticket," she said. David Brown, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District said the district has funded UC Davis studies to try to find an alternative to PBO, but without success, and will continue to look for other mosquito products. He acknowledged that the product's label warns it is toxic to fish.
Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District president Lyndon Hawkins, who made the decision to spray, told residents that they need to weigh the risks. Activists who oppose the spraying say that is exactly what they are doing. Don Mooney, a member of BUGS, says the risk of pesticide exposure is greater than that of West Nile virus.
Members of BUGS, along with members of the group Organic Sacramento, the owner of a Sacramento County organic farm and the owner of a pesticide-free landscaping company recently spoke publicly about the spraying, decrying the long-term threat of pesticides to people, animals and beneficial insect and the threat to organic businesses. “Yes, West Nile is here, but we don't have to put the entire community's health at risk,” Mr. Mooney said.
However, the spraying of pesticides is not always the answer to mosquitoes or WNV. Adulticides, the pesticides used to kill adult mosquitoes, are often ineffective, as demonstrated by the spraying in Los Angeles County. Even under ideal conditions only a small amount of the pesticides reach the target pests and do not work to restrict breeding in adult mosquitoes, on top of the dangers to humans and the environment. Effective mosquito management techniques as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include increased public education, source elimination, personal protection, and the use of larvicides to kill mosquito larvae before they become biting adults. The use of adulticides like resmethrin should be avoided in most circumstances.
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.