Letters to Government Officials — (Citizen Samples)
Some sample letters follow. Copy them word for word, use pieces or make your own improvements with details of your area's situation. Then print the letter, sign and date it with your full name and address, and send it to your local and/or state representatives with carbon copies to the pertinent mosquito control agency or department. You can also use the letter for talking points in phone calls to decision makers or the media or convert the letter into a Letter to the Editor of your local paper. Most importantly, share your letter with others and ask them to do the same.
To: Nolan Newton, Public Health Pest Management Section Chief, DENR
Robin Smith, Assistant Secretary, DENR
Leah Devlin, Acting State Health Director, DHHS
Richard Rogers, Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, DENR
CC: Sarah Avery, News & Observer
From: Fawn Pattison, Executive Director, Agricultural Resources Center
RE: Division of Environmental Health Mosquito Spray Plan
Date: September 24, 2003
I noted in this mornings News & Observer the article announcing DENRs plans for mosquito spraying in Northeastern North Carolina. Isabel left large amounts of standing water in her wake, increasing the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. But DENRs plans to aerially spray the area this weekend with the organophosphate pesticide Naled is not an appropriate response. A raft of evidence shows that adulticiding (killing mosquitoes in their adult stage) is not effective for controlling mosquito populations, and that the risks to human health, wildlife and water quality posed by exposure to pesticides far outweigh the potential benefits of such a spray program.
Since the arrival of West Nile Virus in the state, public health officials have felt increased pressure to act decisively on mosquito control. There are three main reasons that adulticiding is not effective. First, mosquitoes are tiny, and spraying pesticides out of planes is an extremely inefficient way to kill them. According to Dr. David Pimentel, an entomologist at Cornell University, 0.1% of sprayed pesticides actually hit the target pest (Pimentel, D. 1995. Amounts of Pesticides Reaching Target Pests: Environmental Impacts and Ethics. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 8(1): 17-29). 99.9 % of the sprayed chemical is at best a waste of money, and at worst, a public health hazard.
Second, adulticiding programs target mosquitoes at the wrong stage. Such programs do not get at the mosquitoes until after they have matured and are biting, and do not restrict or control mosquitoes from continuing to breed. After Hurricane Andrew caused a surge in mosquito populations in Florida, state officials took bite counts before and after widespread aerial spraying, and found that mosquito populations surged back to pre-spray levels within three days of the treatment (News and Observer 1996.State alters mosquito plans.9/21/96).
Third, there is strong evidence that adult WNV-carrying mosquitoes are developing resistance to organophosphate insecticides like Naled (Weill, M., et al. 2003. "Insecticide Resistance in Mosquito Vectors." Nature 423: 136-137). Furthermore, a broad-spectrum insecticide like Naled will kill all flying insects it actually contacts, including mosquito predators such as dragonflies. Depending on the species, dragonflies take from several weeks up to a year to complete their life cycle, while mosquitoes take just a few weeks, leaving populations with fewer natural controls.
While traditional adulticide methods look like action, in actuality they accomplish very little. Fortunately, there are more effective alternatives available for mosquito control. Thus, many communities around the US have moved away from broadcast spraying of adulticides to find more effective mosquito management practices that pose fewer risks to human health, wildlife, and water quality.
- According to the New York City Department of Health, more people were reported to have gotten sick from pesticide spraying than from exposure to West Nile Virus in 2000.157 people reported illness as a result of exposure to pesticides used for mosquito control; 19 people were hospitalized for WNV. (New York City Health Information. 2001. West Nile Virus Surveillance and Control: An Update for Health Care Providers in New York City. New York City Department of Health 20(2). http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/pdf/chi/chi20-2.pdf.)
- The Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst, OH has adopted a policy this year that expressly forbids the use of pesticide sprays for public health mosquito control. In adopting the ordinance, the Council found that "the risk/benefit analysis conducted by experts clearly indicates that the dangers of WNV are minimal and affect a very small segment of the population and that the long-term health and environmental risks of spraying with synthetic pesticides poses a much greater risk."(Beyond Pesticides. 2003. Ohio City Adopts Landmark Law to Stop Pesticide Spraying for West Nile Virus. Daily News. Washington, DC. 7/14/03.http://www.beyondpesticides.org)
- Health officials in swampy Washington, DC continue their no-spray policy, stating that pesticide spraying is inappropriate in a heavily populated area with many asthma patients. Instead, officials are focusing on prevention through larvaciding and pubic education. (Washington Post, 2002. First Case Of W. Nile Diagnosed Here in 2002,8/8/02).
In areas where mosquitoes do breed, larvaciding (killing mosquitoes in their larval stage) allows control measures to be used in targeted areas, while mosquito larvae are still concentrated in breeding pools and before adult mosquitoes spread throughout the community. This effective mosquito control method typically uses Bascillus thuringiensis var. israelensis, one of the most popular biological controls. It is a bacterial strain that, when introduced into larval pools, is ingested by feeding larvae and kills them. Bt poses little threat to humans or wildlife, both because of its minimal toxicity, and because the application method ensures there is very little chance of coming into contact with it. A larvacide program could have been put in place immediately after the storm hit. One Bt treatment will remain effective on mosquito larvae for months, even if a pool of water dries out and is refilled (Burns, Robert. Most Mosquito Knockout Devices Only Hammer the Buyer's Pocketbook Texas A&M Ag News, 4/23/03).
Even if the state were to decide that an adulticide spray program were necessary, Naled is not an appropriate choice for use in areas where people live. I have already mentioned mosquito resistance to organophosphates, which are among the most highly toxic pesticides available today. Naled is classified by the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory as a developmental and reproductive toxin. There is simply no need to employ such a high-risk chemical when lower- risk alternatives are readily available. Pregnant women, infants, and children are at greater risk of harm from pesticides, and these populations are rarely taken into account in traditional risk-assessment studies. The spray program will be withheld from the Outer Banks in consideration of nesting shore birds. But broadcast spraying puts everyone at risk of exposure, including populations such as pregnant women, the elderly, those with chronic respiratory illness, and children all of whom deserve special protection.
I would like to request that the Division of Environmental Health put the Agricultural Resources Center on its notice list. We would be very glad to participate in any discussions relating to North Carolinas public health mosquito management policy. Providing up-to-date, reliable information on pesticide issues and alternatives is why were here.
I am concerned about the amount of mosquito control pesticides being sprayed over the metropolitan area in populated areas. The EPA classifies the sprays as possible carcinogens, and my family and I want to avoid exposure to such substances. In addition, they are toxic to many other beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees.
It would be safer for people and the environment to focus on preventive measures such as educating people to use repellents and eliminating possible breeding sites like old tires on their property. Residents should be educated about how to best to avoid getting mosquito bites, as the [YOUR STATE] Department of Health recommends.
I do not think it is right that toxic chemicals can be sprayed on people and their yards without their knowledge or consent. Even with the West Nile scare, some communities on the East Coast have decided that spraying pesticides into the air is too risky, especially since the incidence of asthma in some cities is so high.
I hope you will consider these comments during any legislative discussions about how to deal with disease-bearing mosquitoes and at least give us the option to opt-out of any planned spray program.
Your name and address here
YOUR STREET ADDRESS
YOUR CITY, STATE ZIP
We are writing to urge you not to use pesticides in response to the West Nile virus (WNv). Pesticides have far-reaching consequences, and are a threat to the public health. Wherever they are applied, they ultimately find their way into wells and other drinking water sources. Time and again their use has caused significant harm to humans, as well as to fish and other wildlife. Research indicates that pesticides pose a far greater risk to public health than the virus itself.
Much has been made of the "low-toxicity" of pyrethroids, the "active ingredients" in Scourge, Anvil, and other resmethrin- and sumithrin-based pesticides most commonly used in adult mosquito-control programs in our state. Yet, many pyrethroids have also been linked to disruption of the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are associated with neurological, developmental and reproductive health problems including cancer (especially breast cancer), birth defects and immune disorders in both humans and animals. According to the National Institute of Health, one in eight women in the U.S. will suffer from breast cancer in their lifetime - the cause of which is severely understudied. The EPA is supposed to be "screening" chemicals for their endocrine-disruptor potential, but the agency has claimed that there "is not enough scientific data on most of the estimated 87,000 chemicals in commerce" to do a real evaluation of all the potential endocrine-related risks. (EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screen Program website, http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/oscpendo/).
Pyrethroids, also called synthetic pyrethroids, as well as organophosphate pesticides common in mosquito control programs, can be particularly hazardous to asthmatics, persons with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, children, and the elderly, even in low doses.
You may wonder why, if these chemicals are so hazardous, they are still available. The truth is that many pesticides remain on the market even after researchers find that they are extremely harmful - mostly because the EPA is underfunded and has not complied with Congress's 1972 orders to reevaluate pesticides using modern knowledge. In 1996, EPA officials estimated that they would complete their pesticide safety re-evaluations in the year 2011 - 34 years late. (Our Children's Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides by John Wargo. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1996.)
Both Anvil and Scourge, as well as other pesticides used in mosquito control, are mixed with a synergist compound called piperonyl butoxide to make the pesticide more toxic, or effective. This compound can be much more toxic than the active ingredient alone and is a being investigated by the EPA for its carcinogenic potential. The "inert" carrier substance, petroleum, must also be considered. A fine mist of petroleum does not biodegrade quickly and is a hazard to humans and the environment at every level.
Soon after the mosquito-control program was implemented in NYC in 1999, 90% of the lobster fishery in Long Island Sound was dead. The population has not recovered, and the lobster fishermen are all but out of business. The fishermen have expressed their strong belief that the pesticides are to blame and are suing the city to that affect. A study done by Dr. Sylvain de Guise of the University of Connecticut's Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science on the acute sensitivity of lobster to malathion (the adulticide used in NYC and Long Island) lends weight to their claims. (Sylvain De Guise, Ph.D, Jennifer Maratea and Christopher Perkins. Malathion immunotoxicity in the American lobsters (Homarus americanus) upon experimental exposure. University of Connecticut, 2003.)
Lastly, there is great evidence that the use of adulticides is ineffective in controlling mosquito populations and mosquito-borne diseases. Experts in the field of mosquito control have determined that such spraying actually increases the number of mosquitos, makes succeeding generations pesticide-resistant, and increases the incidence of mosquitos infected with transmissible viruses like WNv by as much as 15 times. (Howard JJ, Oliver. J. of the Am Mosquito Control Assoc, Dec;13(4):315-25, 1997.)
We are not in enough of a public health crisis to justify the wide scale exposure of people to harmful pesticides! That is not to say WNv is not a concern, but according to the Department of Public Health, most of those who become infected will not develop symptoms (and become innoculated), if symptoms do appear they are mild, and only a very small percentage (1% according to the Center for Disease Control) will develop encephalitis.
We believe that a wide scale educational campaign is the best measure of defense against WNv. Citizens must be encouraged to take common sense precautions. But if any other action is to be taken, there are a variety of effective, less costly alternatives to pesticides. Effective mosquito control relies on preventive measures such as removal of breeding habitat, applying Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) to breeding sites, and stocking isolated water bodies with biological controls such as mosquito-eating fish. For more suggestions and alternatives, please refer to the attached copy of Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy by Beyond Pesticides in Washington, DC.
Again, we urge you in the strongest terms, to STOP THE USE OF PESTICIDES and IMPLEMENT SAFER, MORE EFFECTIVE, non-toxic preventative measures to protect the health of citizens and the environment in [STATE].
Please let us know what you intend to do about this issue. Thank you.