Environmentalists Say Dallas County is Plotting a "Mosquito District" for Pre-emptive Spraying

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Something a little bizarre going down this morning at Dallas County Commissioners Court. Or not.

A number of people are supposed to show up at this morning's commissioners meeting to speak against a move by the county to create a mosquito district. Only there is no move to create a mosquito district. Only there may be no commissioners court meeting.
Local government. Gotta love it.

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

Several people, including some mosquito experts, are supposed to appear as public speakers at today's meeting, urging the county not to ask the Texas Legislature to set up a mosquito district for this area. They say they have information that the county is moving in that direction secretly, hoping to spring it on the public as a fait accompli. I put in a call to County Judge Clay Jenkins yesterday at the tail end of the day but have not heard back yet.

What's wrong with a mosquito district? Well, if you're worried about what they're going to spray on you, plenty. Mosquito districts are a kind of governmental throwback to the 1950s, with very little public control and a lot of exemption from environmental regulation. Compounds similar to the stuff they sprayed on us here last summer, for example, are banned in California by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, but mosquito districts in California can still use them because they are exempt from CDPR control.

The fear is that a mosquito district would be able to start spewing toxins before we even knew what hit us. There's some kind of talk going around about "pre-emptive strike" spraying, spewing toxins from the air even before any mosquitos show up. Why do I keep expecting Donald Rumsfeld to jump out of the bushes at me with a little DDT spray can?

Some of the people who want to speak today are hoping to present evidence to the county that the surveys done here after last summer's West Nile spraying were totally bogus, that the spraying accomplished exactly nothing in terms of mosquito control.
Dallas author and radio host Howard Garrett, "The Dirt Doctor," even called me at home yesterday evening to say he had been called by somebody at the country warning him that today's commissioners meeting may be called off. Garrett didn't know why.

Of course by now the paranoia is flowing. Judge Jenkins is a huge spraying enthusiast who loved posing in front of the airplanes last summer in avionic-looking sportswear, pointing at the spraying map with a baton. The only thing missing was a great big "Mission Accomplished" banner.

But there is nothing about a mosquito district on today's commissioners court agenda. Not a word. So the message, if it ever gets delivered, will be sort of: We know you say you're not considering a mosquito district, but we think you really are, so don't.

Will the meeting be called off to squelch the anti-mosquito-district speakers? I'm headed down there. I'll let you know. Personally, I love this. Look at it my way. If it weren't for stuff like this, I'd have to get a job.


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22 comments
jenny379
jenny379

We appreciate the thoughtful coverage of this issue. 

The reality is the science does not support the efficacy of aerial spraying and the body of evidence regarding its risks is growing.

Nationally renowned entomologist and Cornell University professor David Pimentel has called into question Dallas and other city's supposed mosquito kill rates from the aerial spraying and noted that his research has shown those sort of numbers are impossible with aerial spraying, which hits less than 1% of its intended target, the rest hitting unintended targets like humans, wildlife and sensitive water ways, which is why there is such a public health risks associated with spraying.

In this Huffington Post piece, he pretty pointedly notes that he thinks those figures are inflated and based on flawed collection methodology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/pesticide-spray-west-nile-mosquitoes_n_1895014.html

One of the only if not the only long term study on aerial spraying found it actually increased mosquitoes 15-FOLD in the long run! How's that for some effective mosquito control! Here's a link to that study that also shows that any reductions in mosquitoes were short term.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9474556http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9474556

Mosquitoes bounce back from spraying in as quickly as 5 days, which is why spraying is only a temporary band aid fix and one that doesn't target the majority of the life cycle: the eggs, larvae and pupae, which incidentally are not a moving target, are easier to kill, require much less toxic compounds to kill like BTI, which is so low impact that the scientist who discovered it actually drank it at a press conference to demonstrate how safe it is. As Howard Garrett noted, they could aerial spray BTI larvicide instead of toxic adulticide, which would actually work better than spraying adulticides because it would kill the larvae before it ever became mosquitoes and kill a larger portion of the overall mosquito life cycle population with no impact to human health and little impact on the environment.

Every local and national entomologist we have talked to has noted that larvaciding and source reduction is the best way to control mosquitoes. Which begs the question, why are some county officials taking advice from the Dallas County Medical Association about how to control mosquitoes rather than talking to entomologists who are the scientists who know how to control mosquitoes and even more importantly why are those doctors operating out of their scope of practices with no thought to their ethical obligations to practice within their own knowledge base?

Even more concerning is their silence regarding the known long term health effects that have been established in studies of pyrethroids and organophosphates, which are a more toxic class of pesticides that the county will be forced to escalate to if it continues to over spray with pyrethroids, which invariably leads to insect resistance particularly when pyrethroids are used. Insect resistance is concerning thing on several accounts because its requires escalation to more toxic pesticides and because it can eventually create a super bug where no known pesticide works. Rutgers entomologists who review the New Jersey Plan every year note this is why spraying should be "avoided" and not done over "large contiguous areas" ... like oh, say a two entire counties! This review also compares mosquito resistance to pesticides to antibiotic resistance and goes on to note that pyrethroids should be used sparingly because of this and the fact that it is an endocrine disruptor, which has been associated with cancer and other long term health effects.

The issue of long term health effects is the critical point and something that is missed when the county and some of the posters on here casually dismiss the spraying as having no effects. For one, even though the bigger concern is long term effects, which are more difficult to track, the notion that there were no immediate effects  is also not accurate. Our organization tracked some of the short term effects and received numerous reports of injury in spite of our hotline not being widely reported in the media. We submitted a redacted summary of this report to the EPA for its prallethrin review, which can be found on its site. Citizens reported to us symptoms of nausea, vomiting, severe headache, respiratory symptoms, rashes, severe allergic reactions and hospitalizations, all of which are consistent with pyrethroid exposure. I myself was diagnosed in an Austin emergency room with pyrethroid injury that led to a rash across my trunk, respiratory symptoms, vomiting, an acute headache and a hand tremor that has still not completely resolved. The attending physician at the county hospital in Austin told me these sort of ideopathic nervous system symptoms are something he sees with pyrethroid exposure and something he has seen in Houston patients who have been injured from the spraying there and come to Austin for treatment and to escape the spraying. Even more concerning, Poison Control not only turned people away who were trying to report injury, including a well known local organic farmer, but also admitted to me suppressing the more serious injuries that were reported because they were "expected" findings, which is inaccurate as well as wholly unscientific and unethical. For one, pyrethroids are known to cause the sort of symptoms that were reported, including the even more serious effects and two, they are regularly tracked for these sort of injuries and have been associated with over 90, 000 injuries in the most recent tracked decade according to EPA statistics. 

But the most concerning thing are the long term effects. Instead of going into all the numerous studies, I will just post one very import review that was published a few weeks ago that reviews dozens of studies by leading childhood health researchers at leading scientific institutions. The review found that pesticide exposure has been linked to almost every childhood epidemic: ADHD, autism, low IQ, diabetes, metabolic disorders, childhood cancer and obesity. 

http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KidsHealthReportOct2012.pdf

 How sad is it that we are taking such drastic, risky expensive approaches to control mosquitoes even though the science doesn't support its efficacy and especially when it puts children's health at risk in some many ways. It's funny to me that one of the commentors on here called us hysterics, which is really a better word for those who are making mosquito control decisions based on knee-jerk fear of West Nile instead of valid science, which will offer better strategies for avoiding West Nile than fear based political solutions. One of the nation's leading entomologists, Dr. Pimentel, has been very vocal in calling aerial spraying largely a political rather than scientific solution. The sad thing is this not only puts all of us at risk for pesticide injury but also for West Nile because it's the science based approaches that our entomologists spoke of today - low impact larviciding, source control and education - that will effectively control mosquitoes. Aerial spraying is just an expensive risky and ineffective political bandaid that allows the problem to fester and puts all of us at more risk.

schermbeck
schermbeck

Thanks for covering this issue. Indiscriminate aerial spraying of suspected endocrine disruptors is a bad idea. One understands how it got approved at the height of what appeared to be an epidemic this summer - the Commissioners were in a tough bind. But any plans to continue this strategy need to be subject to a very thorough and public decision-making process with the burden of proof on the advocates who think this is necessary. The City of Dallas lost the only staffer devoted to mosquito eradication and two years later we suffer a setback. Perhaps there's a lesson in causality there. Instead of dousing lots of chemicals on people and places they aren't needed, maybe a better course of action is to restore funding for boots on the ground. It's my understanding that the speakers today thought they had to go public with news of an "aerial spraying district" based on what they had been told was going on behind closed doors. Don't know what the situation actually is, but I'm glad this debate is starting now, instead of mid-July.

WordSmooth
WordSmooth

I was scheduled to speak at the County Commissioner's meeting today on the fact that pyrethroids are a seizure trigger for my son. But he had a seizure and I couldn't make it.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

More on this in paper column next week. Holding your breath that long could be harmful to your health.

Johnyalamo
Johnyalamo

Ironically pediatricians have just recently come out against pesticides. It seems that the medical community and the health dept are at odds.

http://tinyurl.com/csc4k89

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Howard Garrett is recommending killing sprays that he thinks should be used -- toxins that do not pose dangers to the neuro-endocrine systems of children.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Jenkins is taking seriously speakers who say there were documented cases of chemical exposure squiring hospitalization.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I don't see that there's any evidence that last summer's spraying had any deleterious effect on the environment.  No one presented with a growing third arm or anything like that.  A few people went hysterical over nothing, but a lot of lives were saved from West Nile.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Cantrell 's wife has med emgency, Dickey and Garcia out on presceduled trips. Speakers were told would be no meeting. Jenkins announcing West Nile virus speakers can speak if they want to.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Here I sit. they said meeting might be off, but Commssioner Price is in the house, so I guess we're on. Problem seems to be quorum -- Cantrell and Dickey AWOL.

jenny379
jenny379

correction: Poison Control referred to "unexpected" findings... not expected. alas i am exhausted from a sleepless night of data collection that apparently also leads to the ubiquitous use of "which."

and the correct link to the the study showing that aerial spraying led to increases in mosquitoes is:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9474556

nanwj
nanwj

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I didn't grow a third arm, but I had serious medical reactions, requiring steroid injections, and causing severe allergic reactions and later hospitalization.  This is not anything to joke about.  I have CVID, COPD, asthma, and heart disease.  I have been sick since August. 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz No lives were saved by spraying poison in the air after the mosquito season was in the last quarter and those susceptible had already been exposed.

Better to just eliminate standing water and pass out Off to poor people.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I'm having trouble getting comments to post. Whole point of testimony today is scientific evidence that last year's spraying did not save any lives.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz that's the issue. Today's speakers are offering evidence that no were saved by spraying --none.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz lots of interest g testimony based on scientific reports and journals finding that pesticide exposure is associated with childhood disorders from lower I.Q. T obesity.

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