What We're Spraying for West Nile Doesn't Work, Isn't Safe and Kills Every Bug in its Path

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So on the radio this morning I hear all about the spike in West Nile deaths in Dallas and how the county health department will be on the job tonight protecting us by sending the pesticide trucks through three more neighborhoods, this time in North Dallas.

I just hope we all understand the spraying is bullshit. They don't have an ounce of research to show that spraying pesticides at night from a truck does anything at all to combat West Nile. I have a column about it in this week's paper.

It's a PR move, nothing more. The politicians want you to see that they're doing something. They love you. You should vote for them again. And you know what? You do want somebody to do something. This just happens to be something that may not do any good.

Does it do any harm? The stuff they are spraying is called Permethrin. Both the EPA and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation have just come out with tough new guidelines severely restricting the ways in which Permethrin can be applied, with one major exception: mosquito-killing operations, called "vector control," by local health agencies. They can still spray the hell out of it, indiscriminately, up and down streets, in spite of mounting evidence that Permethrin is by no means hazard-free.

Are they allowed to keep broad-cast spraying it because Permethrin does such a good job of preventing West Nile? No, it's because vector control agencies have huge local political clout, so they are able to carve out an exception for themselves.

Why did the EPA and the CDPR clamp down on Permethrin? Well, take just one area of evidence they were looking at. For a while Permethrin was the favored chemical for cat flea collars. But people kept bringing their cats into veterinary hospitals with tremors and seizures and sometimes because the cats had died unexpectedly.

Now the EPA has required that language be added to the full labeling for Permethrin saying: "DO NOT USE ON CATS. May be toxic or potentially fatal if applied to or ingested by cats. Accidental application to cats and/or grooming a recently treated dog may result in tremors and/or uncoordinated muscle movements. If this occurs, immediate veterinary care should be provided."

Permethrin is a neurotoxin. I think people have a tendency to assume the federal government, especially the EPA and more especially our own local elected officials who love us, wouldn't allow anybody to spray a neurotoxin up and down our streets at night unless they were double-dog certain it's safe.

Think again. The EPA "red sheet" on Permethrin, describing the government's full knowledge of the chemical, says: "EPA is not currently following a cumulative risk approach based on a common mechanism of toxicity for the pyrethroids. Nor do we have a clear understanding of effects on key downstream neuronal function e.g., nerve excitability, nor do we understand how these key events interact to produce their compound specific patterns of neurotoxicity."

That's like, "People can go over Niagara in barrels if they want to, but we do not have a clear understanding of what happens on the way to the bottom or when they hit bottom."

Permethrin does kill bugs. It kills them all, so I am already getting reports of beekeepers finding their hives dead the morning after a spray truck rolls by. That means the lady bugs and the butterflies and all the other insects that birds eat on are dead too.

Somebody will say, "Don't we have to do something?" No, not if we don't know what we're doing. We could just as well adopt my own anti-mosquito strategy where I live, which amounts to using foul language on them.

Watch out. The next stage in the escalation is going to be a call for spraying Permethrin from airplanes. Before that happens, we really need a robust discussion of its effect on people with compromised immune systems and asthma. Spraying from airplanes would be really crazy, like donning long snouts and black robes and marching around the walls of the city beating drums to ward off the plague. Actually, the snouts and the drums would be better. At least that wouldn't hurt the bees.

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56 comments
timetogrowup
timetogrowup

Factual stats prove the problem is most prevalent in the areas where excessive watering, irrigation systems are used. People are causing the "problem." Aeriell spraying just temporarily addresses the symptom, is indiscriminate and opens the window for greater environmental imbalance, poisoning natures chain of predatory balance. Your wrong thinking the indigenous species will just come back. Some of theses very aggressive species of mosquitoes were originally non-indigenous to this area, again introduced by man.  You'll just produce a population of pesticide tolerant immune mosquitoes. How about the cities Code Enforcement departments actually getting out of their air-conditioned cars and doing something, like citing violators of excessive water usage ordinances, illegal storage, high weeds. TREAT the SOURCE/Problem not the just symptom! Or, maybe you can get the great Messiah Obama to make a speech, wave his hand and make the problem just go away! Hope it will change! No, wait we have the City Of Dall-ass which is the next best thing!

roo_ster
roo_ster

The pesticides also kill cats?  Can I get a guarantee?  There are too many semi- & full-on-feral cats in the neighborhood already, they could use thinning.

sandih
sandih

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=442380909115981

 

The morning after a spraying and the Texas Honeybee Guild found dead bees. This is not good for anyone. There are non-toxic controls (Mosquito dunks and bits that contain Bt) that kill larvae. If you continue to spray, you kill all the beneficial insects that naturally eat mosquitoes. We've become way too complacent about the chemicals and toxins that we're putting on our, and our children's system. This needs to stop.

 

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

 Yes, they are toxic to cats. If you look on the active ingredients this class of pesticides are all over the place in the market. What made the EPA like this stuff is the fact it breaks down quickly and does not last long in the environment. Despite the fact that it killed off a lot of non-target species that is not going to make them disappear entirely. The ladybugs will fly back or hatch out, same with the green lacewings, dragonflies, etc. All the niches that were previously occupied will be filled again, nature abhorring a vacuum and all that. Lazy way to do some PR and CYA? Yeah, sure is. Making sure you don't have standing water, eliminating things like old tires in the yard and generally cutting down on the areas where skeeters will breed is the best long term solution. If there are natural areas that are perennially a source of skeeters there are better solutions than spraying permethrin all over the place. Bacillus thuringensis, isreaelensis for starters or even introducing gambusia fish in ponds will take care of the skeeters at the larval stage without harming non-target species. Ranchers have using small fish for skeeters  in water troughs for years. Donuts of BTi have also been on the market for a long time too. I suspect the PR of flinging permethrin around was as much of a contributing factor as its actual effects on the skeeters. 

And yes, I do have a license to spray this stuff and other stuff you really don't want to mess with unless you are full geared up. 

stephenb51
stephenb51

Um, I use OFF when I am outside and do not get bit. I don't think it's that hard to figure out.

sidewalkastro
sidewalkastro

Was glad to read about Permethrin. I was going to shampoo my cats for fleas that had Pernethrin in it. Thank you!

Americano
Americano

Pesticides not safe?  Say it ain't so Jim! 

LohnJocke
LohnJocke

Hmmmm. What would be the stupidest possible decision that poses the greatest risk for the population while resulting in the greatest profit to those offerring the "solution"?

 

Because that's the one Dallas will choose. Every time. Bunch of effing slave cattle, run by a bunch of effing Hitler.

romeolipschitz
romeolipschitz

Jim, exactly where did you get your bio-chem degree?

Diane Mason Fourton
Diane Mason Fourton

Couldn't we just borrow a few bats from Austin, for the love of God?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

Who (on the city council) has got a BIL that works for the chemical company that supplies this dastardly pesticide? 

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

If the mosquitoes don't kill you, then surely Permethrin adds to your speedy demise.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Bats.

 

We need them. They eat mosquitos and other little flying annoyances.

And they also keep us safe from Jokers, Riddlers, Catwomen, Mr. Freeze, and assorted other villainous threats to civilization.

Russp
Russp

Since Fort worth hasn't sprayed for mosquitos in decades yet has 1/3 less cases of West Nile compared to Dallas, it's pretty cleared spraying is not the answer.  

engmofo
engmofo

"We could just as well adopt my own anti-mosquito strategy where I live, which amounts to using foul language on them."

I prefer this method also,keeps the neighbours away,the mosquito's not so much.

igagerk
igagerk

@randi.trollop. I would like to add one more thing that everyone can do: GET RID OF OLD TIRES! remove them to a recycle processor. Actually clean up your property to remove any standing water. Lowland areas with weeds are the mosquitoes breeding grounds.  

Albert
Albert

Jim, it's like the health care thing. At least someone is DOING something!

 

And that makes it right. After all, we don't see you or anyone else offering alternatives.

 

 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Jim, let's be realistic.  If we stopped the government from doing all the crap that is pure theater even while it makes the problem worse, we'll have to end the war on drugs, get rid of gun control, get government out of the marriage business, end the TSA, the EPA, the DOE, the NEA, the ATF, the FDA, the BIA, Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD, the FCC, FEMA, the USPS first class mail monopoly, NASA, No Child Left Behind, Headstart, DARE, the FAA, Parks and Wildlife, and the Social Security Trust Fund.

 

Shit, if we stopped the government from doing anything that was just theater while making the problem worse, we wouldn't have any government LEFT.

randi.trollop
randi.trollop

Dear At-Risk Dallasites, stay indoors at dawn and dusk, and minimize your time outdoors.

You're welcome!

Honeybee
Honeybee

On a related tangent, there is a great article in either the New Yorker or Harpers about genetically modified mosquitoes being released.  All of the scientists cited in the article seem to agree that there is no downside lurking in the shadows bc mosquitoes have no real niche in nature.

 

The sprays DO have a downside.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Jim may be on to something.  My Burmese is sprouting a second head...

mmmillican
mmmillican

Check out mosquitosf.com for a great alternative mosquito abatement program in San Francisco

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

We've spent the entire summer battling mosquitos on our back patio. I've tried virtually every product, most containing Permethrin . Sprays, bombs, foggers, misters, oil pots, etc. Lots of time and money spent. What do we have to show for it - better half diagnosed with WN.

 

Bottom line - nothing works.

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

What? City officials lying to us? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooo.................

darrd2010
darrd2010

I guess now we will have Mike Rawlings get up in front of a microphone and say....

 

"I'm for Permethrin and I'm also for neighborhoods!" just like he did last week at the Gas Drilling Briefing.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Jim, part of the problem is the public. They demand the government do something about any perceived problem (usually with cries of "Won't someone think of the poor children!"). And, it is usually, when the issue is studied, just a few individuals in the public causing the problem. If more people would work to get rid of the pools of standing water and wear insect repellent this problem would probably go away. So, instead we are spraying a toxic chemical that is of limited effectiveness in a just a few small areas. This ends up with the West Nile mosquitoes moving from place-to-place. This would also result in city and county governments not wasting tax dollars on this.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @romeolipschitz Observer's obscenity policy will not allow me to show you.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @Russp Ft Worth IS considerably more arid than Dallas believe it or not

NolaCherie
NolaCherie

 @Albert  After all, we don't see you or anyone else offering alternatives.

 

Here are alternatives that work:  Wear repellent containing DEET.  Stay indoors around dusk and dawn.  Eliminate standing water.  Keep weeds mowed.  And in the case of standing water that cannot be eliminated, use mosquito dunks.

 

And that makes it right. After all, we don't see you or anyone else offering alternatives.

 

http://www.khou.com/news/texas-news/Rural-Denton-County-town-finds-success-with-mosquito-program-162680486.html

 

If you read the article, you'll see that Bartonville has had success controlling mosquitoes by giving mosquito dunks to residents for free.  It costs far less than spraying, is safer, and is more effective.

 

We don't have too much of a problem with mosquitoes at our house, a fact I attribute mostly to the fact that we have bats in the area, that we have seen flying at dusk.  But we also have standing water that we cannot eliminate: a storm water drains opens onto our property where it forms a small, usually still stream that feeds a nearby water retention pond.  I could use dunks in that water, but I always opt for the most natural method I can, so I'm going in search of Gambusia Minnows today. I live in Haltom City, and there's a fish farm nearby that I hear carries them.

 

observist
observist

Yeah!  Screw air traffic control, drug efficacy testing, bandwidth allocation, national parks and social security.  We don't need that shit!   Companies should be able to dump any crap in any river they want to - market will sort it out - they'll be too scared of losing customers to do anything that might poison our air or water.  And companies should be able to sell any crap they want and call it Medicine - caveat emptor, suckas!  People can just pick the right stuff based on TV ads, you know, like Extenze.  And instead of the TSA, we'll just let all the passengers carry guns on planes.  What could possibly go wrong?  Maybe the planes can be armed so they can shoot down other plans that compete for airspace.  And everything else?  Well, fuck poor people, old people, crippled people, sick people, and kids too stupid to be born to decent parents - they're just lazy - let 'em die.  (Wait a sec - do Libertarians believe in evolution?  I know Republicans don't...)

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @Lakewooder Lakewood and the Park Cities have the worst skeeter problem in the cities, due largely to overwatering.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @Tim.Covington I do not disagree. There is a certain expectation out there that the government, which we hate and refuse to support with taxes, should nevertheless make us safe, happy and I guess immortal. For free.

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

 @JimSX JimS.  The only person on the Observer website who adheres to the obscenity policy.  Who'd have figured?!?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @observist Right, because if the government doesn't wave guns around, there's no way for that stuff to get done.  I mean, I know every airline is just waiting for a chance to crash their planes into each other.  And the TSA is really doing soooo much better a job than the private security before them.  Maybe instead of the FDA telling people what they can have, they can listen to their doctor instead.

 

I mean, I can't tell you how thankful I am every day that the state owns and operates the grocery stores, gas stations, and big-box stores we need to survive.  Oh, wait, that was the old USSR, where no one could get bread, gas or blue jeans because the government sold them.  Over here, the government just sells the educations, which is why no one can get one of those anymore.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @TurdFerguson  @jerikjonsson those have are also broad spectrum pesticides and have more negative consequences than Pyrethrin.   Not that Malathion is a terrible pesticide, that can be used responsibly, but conventional gardening and integrated pest management use these solutions prophalactically whether needed or not--which is excessive and ultimately destructive to beneficial insects that mitigate the problems the pesticides are designed to fight.

sidewalkastro
sidewalkastro

 @scottindallas I have notice that apartments seem to have a worse skeeter problem. They overwater all the time.

J_A_
J_A_ topcommenter

 @scottindallas Overwatering? I thought we were in the middle of a drought

HellYeah
HellYeah

 @JimSX Since they sprayed, it's been much better . I like seeing all the dead water bugs, who got caught in the crossfire.

WadeEmmert
WadeEmmert

 @JimSX  We could pay more taxes, but then the government would just do more things that don't help, and citizens would have less money for things that do.

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

 @scottindallas  @TurdFerguson Well, I was half kidding, but in fact, responsible use of DDT (not spraying) would probably be beneficial.  Door and window frames combined with staying inside during feeding times.  Works with malaria.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @sidewalkastro depends on the apts.  Also dumpsters likely have pools of water in them that might well breed skeeters.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @HellYeah  @JimSX but those water bugs eat the wrigglers that will have fewer predators when they rebound; making the natural controls weaker.

observist
observist

A starving beast is more voracious than an adequately-fed beast.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @WadeEmmert except that's a juvenile and false construction.  Revenue and expenditures are DIFFERENT.  Gov't needs to be more limited, running deficits in no way limits gov't, but expands it, generally by paying more in interest payments than services.  We, as citizens need to take more responsibility and push the gov't to limit it's scope and focus on what it needs to do.

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