Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds (Citizen Samples)

Boulder: Be Unique and Opt Out of Pesticides
Spraying for West Nile Not a Safe Solution

Personal Responsibility,Not Pesticides, Answer to West Nile Virus
Caution Urged In Mosquito Spraying Exposure

Poison Or Prevention To Control West Nile Virus: What Is The Best Strategy?
Myths Of Anvil

Boulder: Be Unique and Opt Out of Pesticides
By Martin Walter, Boulder, CO

Op-Ed for the Colorado Daily © April 30, 2004

If you don't want to be sprayed with pesticides this Spring and Summer contact the Boulder City Council and tell them so, preferably before or during their meeting this coming Tuesday evening, May 4. Boulder's City Council is under a lot of pressure (from the County, for example) to spray early and often this year for mosquitos. Here is an example from the Rocky Mountain News, 4/19/04:

``In Boulder County, if one neighbor opts out of the emergency yard spraying, several houses on either side also didn't get the protective spray. Stout (from Boulder County Health Dept.) wants residents to accept the extremely low risk of pesticide contamination so their elderly neighbors don't face the not-so-low risk of dying of West Nile.''

Since the City of Boulder did almost no spraying last year the above comment could be interpreted as accusing Boulder City of negligence at best and attempted homicide at worst. The City of Boulder deserves better than that, for the city implemented an intelligent, pro-active program. It did larviciding (pinpoint application of Bt, a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae) and monitoring of adult mosquitos for number, species and presence of West Nile Virus (WNV). In fact, Boulder City had better results than any of the surrounding communities (which did spray with gusto) as measured by the number of confirmed cases of WNV. Based on results, Boulder City deserves praise, not aspersions, for doing the best job locally of controlling WNV while NOT exposing the general population to toxic sprays.

But wouldn't spraying make Boulder's results even better? According to noted entomologist and Cornell University Professor David Pimentel: ``Ground spraying in general is a waste of money. Most ground spraying is political and has very little to do with mosquito control.'' Just to be sure I talked to an independent entomologist at Colorado State University last week; and he told me that if you don't get the mosquitos in the larval stage, you have missed the boat. He added the perspective that he had been bitten by more mosquitos in one evening in Minnesota than he had been in many years in Colorado.

So what about the claim that the spray is ``protective.'' In order to kill enough adult mosquitos to be ``effective'' one must apply ``sufficient amounts'' of pesticide ``sufficiently often.'' This invariably puts us on a toxic treadmill for at least two reasons. Since spraying clouds/mists of pesticides is not selective, natural predators of a prey like mosquitos are most often more adversely impacted by toxic sprays for a longer period than are the prey. Thus natural controls of mosquitos are diminished requiring more spraying in the long term. Secondly, mosquitos become resistant through selection pressures on the genotypes present; and, in fact, mosquito resistance to popular pesticides has already been observed.

On the bright side WNV causes none to mild symptoms in most of the people that get it. It does kill some people, but the flu kills many times more every year -- and WNV has a pattern of declining in its third year, which is 2004 for us. It is claimed that things will be different in Boulder, since we have two species of mosquito that carry WNV whereas on the East Coast they have but one species. This does not impact my main argument/strategy: prevent larvae from becoming adults by rigorously removing habitat like water in old tires and rain gutters and using Bt to kill larvae where habitat cannot be removed. Although Bt is used on organic farms and is not harmful to fish or birds, I still recommend caution. Bt does kill caterpillars, for example. And many caterpillars become beautiful butterflies. Currently, due to the introduction of an exotic paper wasp which kills caterpillars, butterflies are in decline locally.

Now I am sincerely moved emotionally by doctors who rightly can testify to the horrors of individual WNV deaths they have observed, but I can testify to the horrible deaths of young friends of mine from cancer. Boulder County's pesticide of choice, permethrin, is a synthetic pyrethroid which is much nastier than pyrethrin which is a ``flower extract.'' Permethrin impregnated clothing issued to soldiers in the Gulf War remained lethal to insects through three washings. So much for the ``rapid breakdown'' of permethrin. (Permethrin has not yet been exonerated as one of the actors in the ``Gulf War Syndrome.'') A group, Beyond Pesticides, states that permethrin is a possible carcinogen, i.e., cause of cancer, and has been linked to endocrine disruption.

We live in a sea of industry-sponsored advertising/propaganda that tells us pesticides are OK. Let Boulder be different.

Spraying for West Nile Not a Safe Solution
By Eric Levine of Colorado

The Coloradoan © 13 September 2003

According to some recent letters, the massive aerial spraying being done by Larimer County is the only sensible approach to West Nile, and anyone against it is either irrational or not doing their part for the greater public good. One writer even compared these pesticides to seatbelt use. I have yet to see seatbelts linked to cancer and other toxic effects.

Environmentalists support combating West Nile using our best tools. If best means safe and effective, massive spraying must rank dead last. Georgia's department of health states spraying is "the least-effective method for WNV prevention. There is little evidence that only spraying adult mosquitoes has any disease prevention benefits."

A long-term New York study (Cicero) suggests pesticides may actually increase disease rates. First, pesticides kill mosquito predators, resulting in more mosquitoes. Second, pesticides can weaken the immune systems of hosts, such as birds and the mosquitoes themselves. Third, pesticides may weaken human immune systems, and ironically, those most at risk for West Nile are also the most at risk for pesticides.

Another danger of spraying is that many people are at immediate risk if exposed to these powerful poisons. Larimer County has more than 9,000 registered asthmatics, and it's estimated that 6 percent to 15 percent of people are chemically sensitive. In a survey of 6,800 chemically sensitive people, of those saying they knew what made them ill, "60 percent blamed pesticides."

Long-term effects are perhaps the most troubling. The World Resources Institute says "pesticide-related health problems are much more serious than what is generally acknowledged, and the steps now under way to resolve this issue are far from adequate."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the pesticides used by the city (permethrin) and the county (Anvil) are suspected of causing cancer in humans. You may hear that low doses are "safe," but this is not true for cancer-causing chemicals. Every New Jersey chemical sheet carries this warning; "many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen."

Studies have shown that Anvil disrupts human hormones and increases the growth of breast-cancer cells in test tubes. Other studies show these pesticides effect the kidneys, liver and reproductive systems. Environmental effects are equally damaging.

Why did the city and county use these pesticides? I can't answer that, but I do know they knew appallingly little about these chemicals. At a city board meeting, an incorrect answer regarding a basic fact about permethrin couldn't be corrected by anyone in the room. The county's own health director was quoted Aug. 28 saying she had "not seen data that suggests (Anvil) is a carcinogen." I had to advise her that Anvil is made up of two chemicals, one of which is already classified by the EPA as a suspected carcinogen. When panic and politics are fueled by some one-sided press, good public decisions are unlikely.

The good news is that many communities are aggressively fighting West Nile using responsible methods that don't include dangerous pesticides. The Web site http://skipper.physics.sunysb.edu/mosquito/ lists dozens of communities doing just that.

Perhaps people need to be reminded that the very reason our home gardens and organic markets exist are to provide pesticide-free food. Speaking about DDT and other pesticides, environmental-movement founder and author of "Silent Spring" Rachel Carson said, "We should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us."

Recent events remind us her advice is as relevant today as it was in 1962.

See related article by Eric Levine: Personal Responsibility,Not Pesticides, Answer to West Nile Virus

Caution Urged In Mosquito Spraying Exposure
By Carol Smith Allaire of Columbus, Ohio

This Week UA (Upper Arlington, Ohio) © 2 October 2003

Upper Arlington officials have downplayed the risk of fogging for mosquitoes by stating that fogging is "not considered harmful to humans" and that only "people with breathing difficulties" should take precautions to avoid exposure. The pesticide Anvil 2+2, sprayed from a truck driving through our neighborhoods, IS harmful to humans and we should all avoid exposure.

Anvil is a synthetic pyrethroid, containing sumithrin, piperonyl butoxide (PBO) and inert ingredients. Inhaling pyrethroids can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, or difficulty breathing. One exposure can create chronic asthma in a previously healthy individual. Pyrethroids have been shown in the lab to disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen. Endocrine disrupters can lower the sperm count and cause the growth of abnormal breast cells. Pyrethroids also have been suspected to be a kidney toxicant, a neurotoxicant, and harm the thyroid. Skin contact can cause a rash, itching, or blisters. PBO prevents insects from detoxifying sumithrin, is considered more hazardous than most chemicals, can cause skin and eye irritation, and has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen. Anvil's inert ingredient polyethylbenzene (PEB) is a hazardous chemical that the EPA believes to be potentially toxic.

Many communities have discontinued fogging for mosquito control because fogging poses an unacceptable risk to residents. It is also ineffective in that it kills only a limited percentage of mosquitoes, may increase the number of mosquitoes by destroying predators, creates resistance by the mosquitoes to future control efforts, and can agitate mosquitoes to be more aggressive biters.

UA officials have strayed from the intent of the city's Mosquito Management Plan that I helped to develop in 2000. The Plan puts the emphasis of mosquito control on monitoring mosquito populations, identification and elimination of breeding sites, and public education to avoid dangerous and ineffective truck-based fogging. If officials choose to follow the original intent of the Plan, residents will be assured that the city is taking responsible action and not creating an even worse public health problem.

Carol Smith Allaire
Upper Arlington Mosquito Management Task Force Member

Poison Or Prevention To Control West Nile Virus: What Is The Best Strategy?
By Joe Shedlock of B.U.R.N.T. of Nashville, TN

Sent 11 July 2003 to the Tennes-Sierran Club Magazine

In August 2003, after a single human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) developed in the half-million person population in Nashville-Davidson County, the Metro-Nashville Public Health Department began truck-based spraying of the synthetic pyrethroid Anvil(R) 2+2 throughout all four quadrants of the 525 square-mile county. Despite the fact that mosquitoes carrying the virus generally live and die within a few hundred square feet, tens of thousands of residential properties throughout the county were sprayed before the program was halted for the year, just before Halloween. Many Nashvillians oppose the spraying, believing it to be unsafe, ineffective, unnecessary, and even counterproductive.

The chemicals in Anvil(R) have been linked to the causation of cancer, neurotoxicity, adverse reproductive effects, kidney/liver damage, thyroid damage, chemical sensitivity and the worsening of respiratory disorders (such as asthma). The chemicals are also harmful to pets, fish, wildlife and other species. Spraying is also ineffective. As the Citizens Campaign for the Environment has written, "To date, there is no significant credible scientific evidence that shows that pesticide spraying is an effective method for reducing human exposure to WNV." Spraying is unnecessary, because there are other, less toxic means of dealing with the problem. These are the means used by "no spray" cities such as Fort Worth, Texas; Lyndhurst, Ohio; and our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. But public health officials in Nashville have slighted these less toxic means. Finally, spraying may be counterproductive by killing off natural predators of mosquitoes, destroying the natural ecological balance, and thus ensuring increased mosquito populations in future years. Spraying also may help breed pesticide-resistant mosquitoes, which may carry even worse diseases than WNV, leaving us defenseless and even more endangered.

The spray program has an additional unsavory aspect--environmental racism. Health Department spray truck drivers appear to be disregarding departmental rules and continuing to spray properties where people are sitting in their front yards, or walking on the sidewalk, and so on. This spraying of people seems to be particularly prevalent in predominantly black neighborhoods. Similar reports have been received from the spray program in Memphis.

The spray programs seem to have occurred this summer only in large population cities, and only in cities where purchase of the spray chemicals (which are extremely expensive) was subsidized by the State of Tennessee. Therefore, this is a State-level as well as a local issue.

B.U.R.N.T. (Bring Urban Recycling to Nashville Today) is a multi-issue environmental organization that has fought for less toxic means of controlling pests in the schools and throughout our community. In order to better educate the public on this issue, BURNT will hold a forum titled "West Nile Virus: Poison or Prevention--What is the Better Strategy?" from 6:30 - 8:00 PM on Thursday, December 4, at the Lentz Health Center, 311 23rd Avenue North, Nashville. Speakers will include: Dr. G. Brent Hager, Ph.D., Metro Public Health Department; Ms. Kristy Gottfried, M.S., Entomologist, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Dr. Robert C. Wingfield, Jr., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, Fisk University; and Dr. Laurence J. Zwiebel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology and nationally known expert on mosquitoes, Vanderbilt University. Please find further information about this event on our website. Contact us at: (615) 327-8515 or by e-mail.

BURNT needs the help of Sierra Club members to fight to reduce the spraying of poisons. We primarily need your knowledge, your "know how," and your "know who." There are dozens of questions we have about these chemicals, about EPA approval procedures, about CDC Guidelines, and the like. Please contact us and help us change Tennessee's policies that now promote the poisoning of our environment in a misguided attempt to curb WNV.

Myths of Anvil
By Samuel DeFazio Praxis of Allegan, MI

23 March 2003

Dear Editor,

Public officials in Michigan often misrepresent the risks associated with pesticide use.

Anvil is a trade name for a class of pesticides called Pyrethroids that were being sprayed for mosquitoes in Lapeer County last year and will be proposed for use in Oakland County and elsewhere in 2003. Unfortunately, the public was told by pesticide vendors and public officials, apparently to promote the sale of this spray management strategy, that these products are "safe".

Here is some factual information from a standard reference text: "Basic Guide to Pesticides- Their Characteristics and Hazards" by Shirley A. Briggs 1996 ISBN 1-56032-253-5. It reads as follows:

• MODE of ACTION: Pyrethroids inhibit sodium and potassium conduction in nerve cells and blocks nerve impulse transmission. Many times pyrethroids are mixed with piperonyl butoxide in formulations. Immediate effects: Symptoms are similar to DDT poisoning. T- syndrome: tremors; exaggerated startled response; hypothermia. CS-syndrome: excessive; writhing and salivation, deceased startle response; increased adrenaline and blood sugar.

• OTHER POSSIBLE EFFECTS: convulsions; diarrhea; headache; vomiting; labored breathing; excessive mucous discharge; irritability; sweating; sudden swelling of the face; eyelids; lips; mouth and throat tissues. Hay fever like symptoms; elevated pulse.

• LONG TERM EFFECTS: Suspect mutagens; suspect teratogens; suspect carcinogens; immunotoxin; decreased hormone release from the brain; some effects may be cumulative.

• ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS: Highly toxic to fish, bees, and aquatic arthropods.

How can any rational person characterize this factual description of this class of pesticides as safe, there has to be a hidden agenda. I hope to God its something more than simple greed at work here. Some public officials have argued the poison (from the pesticide) is in the dose, that only a very small amount of pesticide is used and can not harm you, this is also not factual. Non-pesticide alternatives exist and they are not being explored because they are not being identified or they are being officially discouraged.

Reporters love to receive additional materials. For background, send them:
Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy
Lindhurst, Ohio Ordinance