Mosquito Spray -- Neither Safe Nor Effective
Research and Opinions as to Why 'TASD Mosquito Control' Needs a Turnaround
(compiled by Susan Searles, contact firstname.lastname@example.org -- last updated 7-4-11)
Scientific testing has connected mosquito sprays with massive fish kills and bird kills, poisoning of amphibians, birds, bats and other mosquito predators, the die-off of honeybees essential to pollination of all fruits and vegetables, and the contamination of gardens and crops (in violation of instructions on the product label). Ohio Revised Code 921.15 prohibits use of any pesticide with "adverse effects on the environment." ORC 921.24 prohibits pesticide contamination of "adjacent food, feed, or other products."
The chemicals in our mosquito sprays have been scientifically linked to birth defects in babies, ADHD and asthma in the young, and major chronic diseases and infertility in adults. ORC 3719.30 prohibits putting poison in a common street or a private yard or enclosure occupied by others. After three Canadian provinces and a multitude of U.S. cities have banned mosquito spraying, we need to examine the life-and-death issues. (The revealing personal stories from Lucas County citizens which stimulated the research for this article, are at the end of this report, under "Close Encounters with Mosquito Spray.")
Mosquito Sprays Accumulated in Our Bodies and Homes Can Trigger Disease, But We Have Means to Protect Ourselves
It is remarkable that whole Canadian provinces -- Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario -- now prohibit within city limits all mosquito sprays (and toxic lawn chemicals). This happened because health professionals, scientists, gardeners, and other concerned citizens teamed up with health departments to enact bylaws. After one year, Ontario's urban stream pollutants had been reduced 80%. ["Ontario Ban Results in Major Decline of Pesticides in Water," Pesticides and You, summer 2010]
Major U.S. cities have banned mosquito sprays for public health reasons -- Washington D.C., Fort Worth, San Francisco, New York City. Cleveland stopped spraying after five of its suburbs enacted bans. Bowling Green has never allowed spraying. Many smaller U.S. cities and towns also refrain.
Toledo-area Metroparks continue their long-standing policy of not spraying -- to protect public safety, the safety of beneficial wildlife, and the delicate 'balance of nature' in which mosquitoes provide food for birds, bats, amphibians, dragonflies, small fish, etc. ["Metroparks Mosquito Control Policy"] But why aren't all citizens entitled to protect the balance of nature? Why allow 'chemical warfare' against our wildlife, our pets, our children, and ourselves? The cost of human pesticide poisoning and related illness in this country has been estimated at $933 million a year! [see Pimentel study under 'Scientists' Warnings']
What follows bears no malice toward current employees of Toledo Area Sanitary District (TASD) Mosquito Control, who have been as courteous and accommodating as possible within the system (which allows residents with yards to opt out of being sprayed, by calling 419-726-7891 and filling out a form). These employees sadly are among the most vulnerable to TASD's two neuro-toxic chemicals -- one linked to asthma and hormone disruption, the other ('night-fogging' Chlorpyrifos) "derived from World War II nerve agents... the most likely to cause acute poisoning... banned in England, Sweden and Denmark... extremely toxic to developing brains" [of the unborn and children through adolescence]. [National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) report on organophosphate pesticides in Oct. 2005 Environmental Research]
Children poisoned by Chlorpyrifos [pronounced klor-PIE-ri-phos ] have sometimes been misdiagnosed and mis-treated by doctors unable to recognize the symptoms -- difficult breathing, seizures, persistent vomiting, diarrhea. An example of one such misdiagnosis appeared in the medical journal Pediatrics of April 2004. The article cautioned pediatricians to be aware of pesticide hazards, and to warn the families of their patients. It drew on studies of Chlorpyrifos in mosquito spray to illustrate the way children can easily surpass the EPA's 'safe exposure limits': "Environmental exposure includes outdoor play activities, and hand contact with soil, lawns, and contaminated objects." ["Pediatrics Warn of Neurological Effects of Pesticides in Children," Beyond Pesticides Daily News Archive 4-22-04, citing Bernard Weiss, Ph.D. et al.]
A brief story illustrates how we learned that pesticides accumulate inside our bodies. In 1978, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), headquartered in Atlanta, received a phone call from the mayor of a tiny Alabama town called Triana. The mayor requested that the CDC test his 600 townspeople for any evidence that the DDT plant upstream had been dumping tons of factory waste into the creek. A CDC scientist named Kay Kreiss did the testing. She found the average body level of DDT in Triana was five times higher than the national average, and the amount increased with age. "Experts had thought DDT reached a steady state in which excretion matched intake, but Kreiss found that it simply accumulated over time." [Inside the Outbreaks /Mark Pendergrast, p.187]
Major Diseases Linked to Pesticide Exposure
Even though the U.S. banned DDT in 1972, and TASD used it only from 1947 to 1962 (when Rachel Carson's Silent Spring aroused a public outcry against DDT), current sophisticated measuring now finds a DDT residual in 99 percent of U.S. residents -- and in animals and humans everywhere in the world. [Chemical Trespass /Kristin S. Schafer et al., Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA)]
As of summer 2010, there have been 260 scientific studies showing that exposure to DDT or its successors, all nerve-poisoning insecticides, is 'significantly linked' to many common types of cancer, including prostate and breast cancer. 'Significantly linked' means that a survey of hundreds of subjects with the same disease, reveals that a high percentage of them were exposed to pesticides. 'Significant link' or 'significant correlation' doesn't 'prove' but does suggest or imply causation. Of course there may be other factors contributing to onset of a disease.
'Pesticide-Induced Diseases' [www.beyondpesticides.org/health/pid-database.pdf] describes major diseases now linked to pesticide exposure, tallies the number of studies to date, and shows some graphic photos of the afflicted (such as a baby without arms or legs). In addition to Cancer, diseases 'significantly linked' are: Parkinson's Disease (65 studies); Asthma (41); Learning and Developmental Disorders (26); Birth Defects (assumed to stem from the mother's lifetime exposure, and especially during pregnancy) (19); ADHD/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (8); Diabetes (6); Autism (5); Alzheimer's Disease (4). As if confirming our mosquito spray's role in these diseases, a government handbook, the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, lists Chlorpyrifos as targeting the respiratory system, the peripheral nervous system, and the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain). [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, approved by the CDC, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service]
TASD's standard 'night-fogging' spray since 1995 was linked to infertility. Near the end of the database we read, "A 2006 study published in the journal Epidemiology found that high levels of urinary metabolites of Chlorpyrifos correlate with low levels of testosterone in male subjects." [Meeker, JD et al. 2006. "Exposure to... Insecticides and Male Reproductive Hormones," Epidemiology 17(1) 61-68]
Our Stolen Future examines reproductive dysfunction in wild animals whose habitat and water were contaminated with hormone-damaging 'endocrine disruptors' (like DDT and TASD's secondary spray, a 'synthetic pyrethroid.') The book cites a French study tracing, over 20 years, a 50% decline in sperm counts of average 30-year-old men -- implying a 75% decline if continued until the present. [p. 175] Rachel Carson wrote prophetically, "The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life [forms] without destroying itself."
TASD's own training manual, on which spray-truck drivers must pass a test before they can obtain a state license, reflects the incriminating 'circumstantial evidence' garnered over the past half-century from scientists, doctors, hospitals, poison-control centers, etc. This manual gives strict warnings: how to avoid poisoning oneself and others, how to manage protective clothing and respirators, poisoning symptoms, emergency first aid and medical treatment. As for long-term risks, "Studies... show that some pesticides may cause cancer, permanent harm to body systems, miscarriages, or birth defects. ...Don't take any chances. When you ... work in areas where pesticides have been applied, do everything you can to keep them from getting on or in your body." [Safety Training Guide for Trained Servicemen, Pesticide Regulation Section of Ohio Department of Agriculture, p.17] Unfortunately, these warnings have not been transmitted to the general public... which raises the issue of 'informed consent' [see next-to-last section].
Such diverse groups as the Learning Disabilities Association, the Cancer Institute, the Pennsylvania Nurses Association, and United Steel Workers, have joined to support reform of the "Toxic Substances Control Act" which allegedly "has led to the testing of only 200 out of the 80,000 chemicals used in the U.S." A study called "The Health Case for Reforming the 'Toxic Substances Control Act'" concluded that if chronic disease caused by toxic chemicals was reduced by only one-tenth of one percent, national health costs could be lowered by $5 billion a year. USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Mike Wright declared, "It's time to start testing chemicals in the lab... before anyone is harmed. Right now we test them in the bodies of our children, our consumers, our workers, and ourselves." ["USW Seeks Toxic Substances Reform" in usw@work, winter 2010] Wright and thousands of occupational-safety personnel would be aware that "Most of the present occupational concentration limits for hazardous materials have resulted from illnesses and deaths of workers [studied by toxicology and epidemiology experts]." [Environmental and Health & Safety Management /Nicholas Cheremisinoff, Ph.D. & Madelyn Graffia, National Association of Safety and Health Professionals, p.179] These authors introduce the word 'biocide' for "a substance that, when absorbed by eating, drinking, breathing, or otherwise consumed in relatively small quantities, causes illness or death, or even retardation of growth or shortening of life." [p. 457]
EPA 'Approval' Does Not Guarantee Safety
TASD has consistently defended the safety of its sprays by saying they are 'EPA-approved.' This must be answered in three parts: (1) Since 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made it illegal for any company to advertise its pesticide products as safe, and for such false advertising has levied enormous fines. [see Lawsuits section]
(2) According to an M.I.T. educator, in 1978 the EPA was so burdened with trying to monitor 50,000 pesticide products, that its job was lightened to regulating only their active ingredients (about 600). When a single 'active ingredient' was found to cause cancer in test animals, the EPA listed it as a 'carcinogen' and calculated a 'safe tolerance level' for it -- even though "most scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen." The EPA also identified toxicity in over 100 'inert' ingredients blended with pesticides to provide bulk, solubility or sprayability. Many of these 'inerts' were carcinogenic. but because they have the legal status of 'trade secrets,' they are not required to be listed on any product label. Thus the public cannot find out how many carcinogens are in their mosquito spray! [Earth Right /H. Patricia Hynes, M.I.T. Dept.of Urban Affairs, p.16-18]
(3) According to a lengthy treatise in the Notre Dame Law Review, the EPA, never allowed to do its own testing, has always based its 'approval' or 'registration' of toxic substances on minimal manufacturer testing. Initial test results have tended to be biased, because negative findings would jeopardize registration and sales potential. Thus the EPA lacks toxicity data, and the public suffers because of it. The author's solution is to reform the law to compel thorough testing and public disclosure of all risks, just as is now required of drug manufacturers. In the meantime, grossly polluting corporations can be legally stopped by 'injunctive relief' (a precautionary moratorium to prevent further foreseeable damage to public health) as part of a 'public nuisance action.' ['Deciphering the Chemical Soup: Using Public Nuisance to Compel Chemical Testing" /Albert C. Lin, http://nd.edu/~nd/rev/archive_public/5ndlr3/Lin.pdf] This might apply to TASD as a corporation funded by county property taxes, regulated only by Ohio's Department of Agriculture (ODA) Division of Plant Industry, and EPA.
[A formal complaint was submitted to that ODA office April 26, 2011. The reply from Matt Beal, Chief of Plant Industry, stated that the EPA's product-label warnings not to contaminate cropland, would not apply to private or community gardens. He said the ODA could send an inspector with supersensitive measuring equipment if a property-owner suspected contamination of garden space. He said this occurs frequently in areas where agricultural sprays drift onto private gardens -- ODA issues warnings or civil or criminal penalties to the party at fault. The ODA sent the formal complaint to the Regional EPA in Chicago, which sent it to the U.S. EPA in Washington D.C. A separate "Report of Environmental Violation" was filed July 4th with U.S. EPA's Enforcement Division.]
In 1999, a national-news investigation into the history and hazards of Chlorpyrifos, implied that its EPA registration was based on less than one month of testing, involving only 12 prisoner volunteers, who were tested by ingestion dosages only (neglecting skin absorption and inhalation). One prisoner most heavily dosed had telltale side-effects of blurred vision and faintness, but all four in his group had "a sharp drop in levels of a [nerve] enzyme called plasma cholinesterase -- evidence of toxic insult." Chlorpyrifos, marketed to householders under the trade name Dursban, had already been sold for seven years with a patent but no testing. After the EPA registration, further testing was done as the product climbed to $100 million a year in sales value for Dow AgroSciences -- while reports from sickened consumers climbed to over 7,000 cases, half of them involving children (reports transmitted to the EPA). "...The pesticide was being applied 20 million times a year in homes, schools, and offices by the 1990s." ["The Stuff in the Backyard Shed: Chlorpyrifos... Hazardous?" /Jim Harris, 11-8-99 U.S. News & World Report]
After bizarre poisonings and hundreds of lawsuits were publicly revealed in this article, it still took the EPA seven months (until June 2000) to examine 'expert witnesses' and come to its decision -- to prohibit Chlorpyrifos from household products (as hazardous to children) but allow its continued use by professional applicators, especially in mosquito-control and in agriculture. What logic permits a chemical banned from householder use in back yards, to be sprayed by TASD in front yards?
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested 9,282 volunteers, it reported in 2004 that every one of them carried a 'toxic cocktail' of chemicals, including 13 pesticides on average -- many of them above 'safe levels.' A senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), Margaret Reeves, responded that it makes no sense for the EPA to calculate 'safe tolerance levels' because these levels are already exceeded in our bodies from cumulative exposure; moreover, multiple toxins inside us are interacting 'synergistically' in completely unpredictable ways. ["Toxic Residues Above Safe Levels in Many U.S. Residents" in Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability /Kristin Schafer et al. Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), 5-11-04, at www.panna.org/legacy/panups/panup_20040511.dv.html]
Sprayed Mosquitoes Become Immune, Poison Predators, & Multiply Faster
In plain language, "...sprays and foggers are arguably the most expensive, ineffective, and environmentally harmful thing to do! Sprays are expensive. They are effective for only two to four hours, then the mosquitoes are back. Sprays are indiscriminate. They kill every insect: ladybug, butterfly, praying mantis, earthworm, everything! Worst of all, mosquitoes that survive come back stronger than ever. In as little as six generations (two months under ideal conditions) mosquitoes can build up immunity to a pesticide." [www.control-mosquitoes.com]
In the entire animal kingdom, including humankind, insecticidal nerve poisons work by disabling an essential bodily enzyme called (acetyl)cholinesterase, which 'clears' nerve impulses to enable continuous nerve transmission. However, since the earliest DDT spray programs, a large number of insect 'pests' have mutated a slight change in this enzyme which gives them (and all their offspring) immunity or 'resistance' to the poisons. Research studies posted on the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ["Insecticide Resistance and Vector Control" /William Brogden & Janet McAllister, CDC, Atlanta, GA (search title)] seem to conclude that the more often mosquitoes are sprayed, the faster they become immune. "Surveillance data... show that resistance to OPs [organophosphates like Chlorpyrifos] is generally high in urban areas... The higher levels of resistance are in areas of ongoing control activities. When resistance levels in adjacent counties were compared, levels were higher in areas of intensive mosquito control."
A respected college textbook on pest control says, "In the early 1990s approximately 500 insect species were proven resistant to one or more insecticides of the major groups, including organophosphates [like Chlorpyrifos], carbamates, pyrethroids [like TASD's Sumithrin], and DDT. A more recent tally (June 2007) brings the total to 553 species... Of the insect groups, Diptera [mosquitoes] have evolved the greatest number of resistant species (35%). [Spray] programs gradually lose effectiveness and may even become totally useless." [Ch.17, Entomology and Pest Management 6th edition / Larry Pedigo & Marlin Rice (Iowa State University), 2009]
When resistant, still-flying, spray-contaminated mosquitoes are eaten by their natural predators, such as birds, bats, amphibians, etc., the poisons build up in the bodies of these predators and eventually kill them. Then with fewer predators, the mosquitoes multiply faster than they did originally. This common occurrence is known scientifically as 'pest resurgence' and applies to agricultural pests as well. [above-cited chapter] The logical conclusion is that mosquito sprays are counterproductive, actually increasing the number of mosquitoes, because of the kill-off of their predators. However, it has been observed that mosquito predators will return to areas where spraying has been banned or discontinued, and do the job nature intended them to do.
'Secondhand' Pesticide - Residues Drifting & Trespassing
TASD's training manual explains 'residues' as "pesticides that remain in the air, on plants, soil, or surfaces after an application. Every application leaves a residue... [which] can poison or injure you if you swallow it, if you breathe it, if it gets in your eyes, if it gets on your skin." [op.cit. p.7]
Even though TASD's spray-truck drivers are instructed to turn off the spray if they see people walking along the street, traffic distractions and the surrounding darkness make this difficult. TASD's biologist, Lee Mitchell, admits that he panics if he's out walking his dog in the evening and sees an approaching spray truck. Other residents with the same experience recount their fear and anger at the 'surprise attack.' There is a mad rush to get pets and family inside, close the windows, turn off air-conditioners, etc. Among the most distressed are expectant mothers, and parents of infants just tucked into bed, when they discover the noxious fumes permeating their living space. [based on personal interviews, see last section of this report]
Residents can try to avoid these disturbing and health-risking scenarios by calling TASD at 419-726-7891, requesting the no-spray option, and filling out a form. The property will be marked on the drivers' maps so the spray can be turned off at the designated locations. In addition, TASD staff will alert you by phone twelve hours in advance that your neighborhood will be sprayed that evening, should you wish to confine your family and pets indoors. [interviews and personal experience]]
What TASD does not take into account is that mosquito-spray residues can drift anywhere -- into cars, garages and homes. This was proved by an EPA/HUD survey, "Insecticides on Home Floors." Out of 500 residences sampled nationwide, "residues of Chlorpyrifos were detected in 78% of homes more than three years after the sale of residential Chlorpyrifos products ended in 2001." Equally worrisome was the news that 95 percent of Americans are now contaminated internally with Chlorpyrifos residuals, mainly stored in fat tissue and body organs (including the brain), but also lurking in the blood and urine tested by the CDC / Environmental Working Group in the "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey" (NHANES). [Environmental Science and Technology article /D. Stout et al., published online 5-9-09; summary at www.pesticide.org/the-buzz/insecticides-on-home-floors-results-from-the-american-healthy-homes-survey]
Randall Fitzgerald has written, "Any chemical you can smell... is making its way into your bloodstream when you inhale it. All these years you have been inhaling and absorbing a chemical brew... The costs of such [societal] indifference... out-of-control health-care costs... now threaten to undermine the economy of every nation dependent upon the synthetics... Our private property rights should extend to keeping the air our bodies breathe clear of toxins, the water we drink free of toxins, and the food we eat clean of toxins." [The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals that are Destroying Your Health, p. 9 & 170]
Many pro-organic authors and activists claim that our current method of regulating toxic substances is flawed, and jeopardizes public safety. A valiant attempt to change the system and improve public health is the 28-page agenda submitted to the Obama transition team in January 2009 by PANNA and Beyond Pesticides, "Transforming Government's Approach to Regulating Pesticides to Protect Public Health and the Environment." [www.transformingpesticidepolicy.org] One pertinent quote: "The EPA underestimates health risks by failing to take into account residential exposures. FQPA [the federal Food Quality Protection Act of 1996] requires... an aggregate analysis of all non-occupational routes of exposure to pesticides, including food, water, air, and residential exposure... Pesticide drift is a significant problem. Data from California reveal that approximately 20 percent of pesticide incidents... each year are caused by pesticide drift. EPA's decision to disregard residential exposure to... pesticides is erroneous and must be addressed."
An interesting study from the CDC web site, "Surveillance for Acute Insecticide-Related Illness Associated with Mosquito Control in Nine States, 1999-2002," describes an asthmatic woman who suffered a breathing crisis when mosquito spray was sucked into her home through an air-conditioner. Another incident was the accidental spraying of 29 participants at a softball game -- all were rushed to a hospital for emergency treatment. There were cases of illness in spray-truck drivers. The CDC concluded that municipalities should use mosquito spray only after health authorities had pre-notified all residents as to time and place, and told them how to avoid exposure. TASD's spraying schedule appears on its web site (www.tasd-mosquitoes.org), and is given out to various TV media. However, because most people do not realize the hazards, and do not keep abreast of these spray schedules, they do not keep their children and pets off the grass for several days after spraying as TASD's biologist Lee Mitchell recommends. Thus the toxic residues get tracked into our homes, and the most vulnerable suffer from it -- pets, children, the unwell, the elderly... and pregnant women who risk bearing children with birth defects. It is possible to find out when your neighborhood will be sprayed by calling TASD during the day (419-726-7891) -- if you can get through. Until we have a city-wide ban, the best choice is for residents to opt out, even collectively forming 'no-spray zones,' as suggested by Stacy Jurich in her recent column in the Toledo Free Press Star [search for 'mosquito spray' under www.toledofreepressstar.com]
Citizen complaints about the spraying hazards have been parried with, "Many people want mosquito spray." While this may be true of the misinformed public, it is also true that many people would like to smoke anywhere they please, but the law now forbids this. It was decided that community health was much more important. In the same way, it must be decided by the public and legislators together that community health necessitates a ban on mosquito sprays.
West Nile Virus as a Non-Epidemic
The CDC has done state-by-state surveillance on West Nile Virus since its first U.S. outbreak in 1999. TASD staff have assisted in this effort with tedious sorting and counting of dead, trapped mosquitoes, sending those known to carry WNV to be tested in a state laboratory.
The CDC's findings are online. [www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/resources/wnv-guidelines-apr-2001-pdf] Basically, the only people susceptible to serious illness from WNV-infected mosquitoes are those with severely weakened immunity (about one out of 150) [who are the most susceptible to any disease, especially if their immune systems have been weakened by exposure to pesticide residues]. The CDC states that 80 percent of people 'infected' with WNV have no symptoms at all while 20% have only mild to moderate 'flu.' U.S. fatalities dropped to 57 in 2010. Ohio had four cases but no fatalities. [www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/surv&control CaseCount10_detailed.htm] Lucas County did not have any WNV cases in 2010. ["Lucas County Has No Cases of West Nile Virus in 2010" /Julie M. McKinnon, 11-19-10 Toledo Blade]
A study published by the World Resources Institute, maintains that the pesticides being sprayed all over the world, seriously weaken our immune systems. The implication is that TASD's spraying of pesticides in Lucas County makes us more vulnerable to West Nile Virus rather than less. [Pesticides and the Immune System: The Public Health Risks /Robert Repetto & Sanjay S. Baliga, World Resouces Institute, www.wri.org/pesicides-and-immune-system-public-health-risks -- find an overview at www.globalhealingcenter.com/publication/pesticides-immune-system.html]
The web site www.beyondpesticides/mosquito lists research studies which have determined that the 'spray cure' for West Nile Virus is worse than the disease. "An Open Letter by Concerned Physicians and Scientists" compares mosquito spray to the military disaster known as 'friendly fire' -- killing one's friends while intending to shoot an enemy.
Threatened Pollinators & Gardens -- Food Safety Issues
Gardeners may have a score to settle with TASD, whose two main insecticides are both highly toxic to honeybees (and presumably other pollinators) on which all growers depend to pollinate their fruits and nuts, vegetables and beans, alfalfa for livestock, and many other crops -- estimated to be one-third of the food supply. There are clear warnings on the product label for TASD's Chlorpyrifos-based night-fogging spray: "This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or [exposed to] residues on blooming crops or weeds... Do not allow spray to drift onto places where bees are foraging, [or onto] pasture-land, cropland, poultry ranges, or potable water supplies. Do not use on crops for food forage or pasture. Do not contaminate food or feed products." [www.clarke.com/images/pdf/mosquitomist%201%ulv%20label.pdf]
In flagrant violation of this instruction, TASD has been callously devastating our crucial insect pollinators, and contaminating thousands of rural, urban and suburban gardens -- including over a hundred community gardens fostered and provisioned by 'Toledo Grows.' All these gardens supply life-sustaining food not only to the gardeners, but to their families and friends, and often to the needy as well. [see "1000 Victory Gardens Challenge" issued by U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptor, Toledo Grows, Toledo Botanical Garden, OSU Extension, Toledo Seagate Foodbank, and Center for Innovative Food Technology]
Joel Salatin, a Pennsylvania farmer, activist, and film star, declares, "Food is a human right. There's no reason why we shouldn't have healthy food to eat. This is a social justice movement as much as an environmental movement." [Freshthemovie.com]
Every single garden in Lucas County needs to be protected from TASD's nerve-poisons, which apparently remain toxic on vegetation for a week or more after spraying. [www/epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chlorpyrifos; also see www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/westnile4.pdf]
An Ohio State University extension educator, Dan Pavuk, explains, "In my frequent consultations with small and large growers, I usually advise against using pesticides, because they kill our valuable pollinators, and harm the birds, bats, amphibians and insects that eat crop pests. Nature's 'biological controls' are much more effective, combined with crop rotation. Our Master Gardener text stresses that beneficial insect species far outnumber the pest species." [personal interview]
A book on beekeeping around the world mentions "a quote attributed to Albert Einstein... 'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more humans.' It's been bandied about in the media ever since CCD [Colony Collapse Disorder] became big news. The jury is still out on why the bees are disappearing. But ask many beekeepers and they'll tell you, 'We think this disappearing act is due to what they're spraying on those crops out there.'" [The Honey Trail /Grace Pundyk, p. 315; "To Bee Or Not To Be: Insects, Birds, Amphibians Dying," Washingtonsblog.com 1-6-11]
According to Dale Allen Pfeiffer's Eating Fossil Fuels, the U.S. accounts for one-fifth of the total annual world pesticide use, estimated at between five and six billion pounds. This equates to five pounds of pesticides for every man, woman and child in the nation. [p.22]
The high demand for safer food is now leading supermarkets to implement organic growing methods among their suppliers. Years of comparative research show that organically managed soils, rich in natural humus and teeming with beneficial microorganisms, (1) better resist flooding, erosion, drought and disease; (2) contribute at least twice as many nutrients to the food; and (3) sequester four times as much carbon-dioxide and global-warming gases. ["Organic Farming Shown to Keep Pace with Conventional," Pesticides and You, fall 2007; Harvest for Hope /Jane Goodall; Organic Manifesto /Maria Rodale; Food Revolution /John Robbins; Fatal Harvest /Andrew Kimbrell, Gardening for the Future of the Earth /Shapiro & Harrison]
Reportedly, the fastest growing segment of agriculture today is the 'small farm' movement growing an intermix of crops using natural fertilizer of composted vegetable wastes. Some of these farmers convinced of the benefits of 'organic' now employ college students during the summer, for the intensive labor required. This could be done on a larger scale if the returning troops were put to work in the fields, exchanging their guns for shovels, hoes, rakes and pruning tools -- bringing the peaceful 'vision of Isaiah' [Isaiah 2:4] and reenacting the economic and agrarian benefits of the Depression-era 'Civilian Conservation Corps.'
In parts of China, pesticide use is minimized by 'barefoot doctors of agriculture' -- youth teams who patrol the fields, observe any signs of damage, and act quickly to physically remove pests and their eggs, and any infected leaves. "...They have succeeded in reducing... wheat rust and rice borer damage to less than one percent, and in bringing locust invasions under control... The alternatives to chemical pesticides... are numerous and proven effective -- crop rotation, mixed cropping, hand weeding, hoeing, mulching, removal of pest eggs, and [reliance on] natural predators." [World Hunger: Ten Myths /Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, p.18]
Hazards to Wildlife and Water Supplies
TASD's night-fogging spray bears the trade name 'MosquitoMist.' Its active ingredient is Chlorpyrifos, almost 20% of the blend, while unnamed 'petroleum distillates' apparently account for the remaining 80%. The product label under 'Environmental Hazards' says, "toxic to birds and small mammals" (presumably mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and pet cats). It also warns, "toxic to aquatic organisms and fish" -- which is explained by Sandra Kosek-Sills, a coastal-management scientist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: "All pesticides break down gradually, but when rain washes them into the water system, they can persist for years. They attach to sediments in the water, which are eaten by bugs, which are eaten by fish, bioaccumulating in the fish... and people who eat the fish." [personal interview]
"Migratory Bird Mortality," a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service article, states, "In one recent study, pesticides were estimated to result in the direct deaths of at least 72 million birds annually. This is an underestimate of the total deaths, given that delayed deaths from poisoned prey, orphaned chicks, and neurological problems were not included and the study site was limited."[www.fws.gov/birds/mortality-fact-sheet.pdf]
One determined woman, Mrs. Lorrie Otto of Wisconsin, distressed over the twitching, dying birds she found in her yard after each spraying by the DDT trucks, protested to the town authorities but was ignored. Over several years, she coordinated her environmental group, biologists who'd studied the damage to wildlife, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Wisconsin dairy industry (alarmed at DDT residues in its milk), fundraisers, and many other sympathizers. Finally, in 1970, Wisconsin was the first state to ban DDT. Other states followed suit. Then Wisconsin's Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmentalist who initiated Earth Day, took the fight to Washington, where a federal ban on DDT was approved in 1972. (Lorrie Otto later founded "Wild Ones" -- now a national organization with a chapter in Toledo -- dedicated to promoting the long-rooted native prairie grasses and flowers that feed and shelter wildlife, enrich soils, absorb stormwater to prevent runoff and erosion, and require no fertilizer, watering or maintenance. [http://wisconsincnra.org/documents/cnraandddt.pdf]
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported in 2006 that it had measured pesticides in 100 percent of all streams, 90 percent of all fish, 50 percent of shallow wells, and 33 percent of major aquifers. It found Chlorpyrifos "frequently detected in urban streams." [see "Drugs and Chemicals Straight from the Tap," Nexus May-June 2005; p. 2,4 in Threatened Waters, www.beyondpesticides.org/water]
With the World Health Organization monitoring food shortages worldwide and forecasting crises of hunger all over the world due to pollinator die-off, increased storms and flooding, drought and expanding deserts... this is not a good time in history for TASD to be killing our vital pollinators, contaminating our gardens and crops, and poisoning our birds, fish, and water supplies.
When New York City sprayed carelessly, targeting West-Nile-Virus-carrying mosquitoes, thousands of fish died, along with the lobsters. Separate lawsuits were initiated by the lobster industry and a no-spray coalition. [see "Lawsuits..." section] In 2005 in Minnesota, there was a sudden, massive 'fish kill' of a game fish called black crappie. The only clue was that water samples showed Permethrin, an insecticide which two days earlier had been sprayed against mosquitoes. Permethrin, like Sumithrin which TASD uses over 9,000 times a summer at resident request, is a 'synthetic pyrethroid' -- a known hormone-disruptor "...leading to reproductive, behavioral, immune-system, and neurological problems" according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). [Threatened Waters p.11, www.beyondpesticides.org/water]
Garlic Repels Mosquito Micro-Vampires & Other Parasites
As depicted in the old Transylvanian legends, the odor of raw garlic repels blood-sucking creatures of the night -- as small as mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers. Garlic's medicinal values as an immune-strengthener and wound-healer were recorded in ancient medical documents from Egypt, Greece and Italy, and in the wartime chronicles of doctors in both World Wars. Some people gulp down a pill-sized garlic clove at first sign of a cold or stomach-ache for the benefits of 'poor people's penicillin.'
Safe mosquito repellents for skin application no longer include 'deet' products, but do include aromatic herbal oils. If individual residents wish to have a really safe and effective mosquito repellent for the yard, a thoroughly tested 99% 'supergarlic' is available from www.mosquitobarrier.com, and is guaranteed not to harm pets or children. The garlic odor (to human sensors) disappears within two hours but (to mosquito sensors) lasts several weeks. Economizing do-it-yourselfers can easily concoct their own 'garlic solution' by thick-slicing the split-apart cloves from one large bulb of garlic, liquefying them with several cups of water in a blender, diluting the whitish liquid in a full bucket of water, and sprinkling this 'garlic solution' onto the grass. [see story at end, "Dad sprayed garlic juice..."]
This same 'garlic solution' is recommended in gardening books for preventing or alleviating parasite infestations on immature (pre-flowering) vegetable plants, or on berry bushes, fruit trees, rose bushes, even large trees when poured around the base and washed down to the roots by hosewater or heavy rain. (Probably the garlic absorbed by the roots and sent up to the leaves 'flavors' the leaves enough to discourage parasites or fungus, while enhancing the plant's immune system. Large trees should be treated about once a week in spring and early summer. [based on personal experience]
Among the many problems of TASD's petrochemical sprays, they function as contact poisons only, not as repellents. They don't keep the mosquitoes out of a yard for more than a day or two after spraying. This is why long-lasting herbal repellents for the yard, the planting of aromatic flowers like marigolds and aromatic herbs around the house, aromatic soap lathered thickly onto the skin and dried for an evening skin repellent, and the wearing of cover-up clothing to guard against mosquito bites, are better solutions for mosquito problems. [information from TASD, gardening books, etc.]
Lawsuits Involving Chlorpyrifos or Mosquito Spray
The people who have fought longest and hardest against Chlorpyrifos are American farm workers, starting with campaigns led by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s to improve working conditions and get rid of the most dangerous pesticides. A few of them were banned, but not Chlorpyrifos. In the decade between 1987 and 1998, 21 to 24 million pounds of this chemical were applied to more than eight million acres of U.S. crops. Finally in July of 2007, United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice joined forces with the environmental organizations EarthJustice, Beyond Pesticides and others, in a lawsuit against the EPA to stop the use of Chlorpyrifos in agriculture. The lawsuit argued that the chemical has poisoned many workers each year with symptoms of dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, numbness in the limbs, loss of intellectual functioning, and death... also that the spray drifts long distances into the rural landscape, causing disease and disability in children. ["Lawsuit Challenges EPA on Continued Use of Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture," Pesticides and You, fall 2007]
In December 2007 two more organizations took up the cause, with an additional issue. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) petitioned the EPA to ban Chlorpyrifos completely, on grounds that it does not meet federal food-safety regulations. (Tests had shown toxic residues on ground and foliage lasting seven days longer than the 24-hour 'safe re-entry period' originally specified.) Another reason was that Chlorpyrifos had never been properly tested for inhalation risks. [www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chlorpyrifos]
A seven-year lawsuit against mosquito spraying in New York City was resolved in April 2007 when a federal court decided in favor of the complainants, some of whom had already died from their exposure. Apparently the summer sprayings of 1999 and 2000 began at an hour when many unsuspecting citizens were still walking the city's streets or exiting from restaurants. Thousands of New Yorkers were severely sickened either from direct spray or its residues. In a settlement agreement signed by the New York City government, it was acknowledged that mosquito sprays can remain for extended periods in the environment, can cause adverse health effects, can increase mosquitoes' resistance to the chemicals, and can kill mosquito predators.
According to a Wikipedia article, in developing countries such as Iran, Dow continues to market its Chlorpyrifos product (trade-name 'Dursban') as 'safe for people and pets,' even though in 2003 Dow was forced to pay $2 million in a New York State lawsuit for false advertising, as the EPA makes it illegal to claim any pesticide 'safe.' In August of 2007, Dow's offices in India were raided by Indian authorities for allegedly bribing officials to allow Chlorpyrifos to be sold in the country. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorpyrifos]
Between 1990 and 1999 Dow faced 274 lawsuits over Chlorpyrifos poisonings. Some were dismissed, some settled out of court. But in 1995 Dow paid an 'eight-figure' settlement in the court case of a West Virginia paraplegic boy, when it was proved by animal tests that a Chlorpyrifos mixture he had absorbed in utero from his mother's exposure, caused 'catastrophic destruction' of the nervous system. ["The Stuff in the Backyard Shed" /Jim Harris, 11-8-99 U.S. News & World Report]
Scientists Warn about Mosquito Sprays & Similar Nerve Poisons
Scientists who study insects and their (mostly beneficial) impacts on human society, have increasingly expressed alarm over the broad-spectrum sprays targeting mosquitoes but causing 'collateral damage' to wildlife, pets, and all of us. Witness this plainspoken indictment by board-certified entomologist Richard Fagerlund, with the University of New Mexico: "These sprays are not safe. Read my lips: Any pesticide that kills any organism cannot by definition be safe for humans or animals. They may not immediately kill us or our pets, but they can build up in our systems and affect us down the road. This type of mosquito spraying should be illegal throughout the country." The CDC says spraying from a truck is the least effective method! [Fagerlund's San Francisco Chronicle column of 10-22-05]
Dr. Sherry A. Rogers, has written, "...MS, ALS, Parkinson's Disease, mysterious neuropathies, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, or cancer... invariably the most damaged people I have [treated] over the last three decades have been those with unsuspected exposures to pesticides in their younger years." [from Detoxify or Die]
A Cornell University entomologist, David Pimentel, wrote some years ago that every year in the U.S. there are about 67,000 pesticide poisonings, resulting in an estimated 27 fatalities... and the actual number may be much higher. "Based on insurance figures and available data, human pesticide poisonings and related illness in the U.S. are estimated to total about $933 million each year. The use of pesticides in the home has been linked to childhood cancers. Chronic conditions such as OPIDP [Organophosphate-Induced Delayed Polyneuropathy, with symptoms of irreversible neurological defects] constitute an important public health issue because of their potential cost to society." ["Public Health Risks Associated with Pesticides..." D. Pimentel et al., www.ipmworld.umn.edu/chapters/Pimentel.htm]
As far back as 1962, Rachel Carson warned about mental disease induced by the organophosphates (like Chlorpyrifos and Malathion), citing 16 cases in Australia -- five farm workers, eight greenhouse workers, and three scientists checking the efficacy of sprays. "All had a history of prolonged exposure... Confusion, delusions, loss of memory, mania -- a heavy price to pay for the temporary destruction of a few insects, but a price that will continue to be exacted as long as we insist upon using chemicals that strike directly at our nervous system." [Silent Spring, p.198]
Neurologists with the New York University School of Medicine report four instances of unprovoked aggression, including two murders, by perpetrators who had been exposed to chemicals that disrupt neurotransmitters the way Chlorpyrifos does. ["Aggressive Behavior Following Exposure to Cholinesterase Inhibitors," Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (1992), 189-194]
The World Health Organization has estimated that every year, pesticides worldwide cause about 20,000 human deaths, three million cases of acute and chronic poisoning, and 750,000 new cases of disease. [WHO, "Public Health Impacts of Pesticides Used in Agriculture"]
The emergency number for 'Poison Control' we see at the front of our telephone directories (800-222-1222), provides a medical professional to answer your call at any time of day or night. Each call that comes in, is separated by category of poison, and put into a database called the National Poison Data System (NPDS). This database in 2009 counted 92,240 calls to regional poison control centers regarding pesticide poisonings (which does not include victims rushed to hospitals who died there). NPDS is a service of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). [www.aapcc.org]
In Florida, the Hippocrates Institute has become renowned for alleviating chronic disease through its teachings and on-site supervision of a raw vegan diet, meditation, and exercise. The Institute's co-director, Dr. Brian Clement, observed, "Over the past decade we have been seeing younger and younger people with brain cancers and leukemia. There is no question that exposure to synthetic chemicals is the core reason for this increase in catastrophic illnesses." [cited in The Hundred Year Lie /Randall Fitzgerald, p. 232]
One-Third of Children Victimized by Manmade Toxins
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that one out of every three children worldwide suffers disease triggered by synthetic chemicals in the environment [WHO, "Principles for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals" at www.who.int/pcs/publications/ehc/ehc237.pdf]. In light of this tragedy, it seems unconscionable to allow our children to be jeopardized any further by nerve-poisoning, asthma-provoking mosquito sprays -- especially considering Lucas County's present health crises in low birth weight, premature birth, asthma, ADHD, and childhood cancer, all of which have been linked to pesticide exposure. [see www.wgte.org for PBS programs on cancer and on the 'low birth weight'/ prematurity epidemic locally and nationwide; also see www.beyondpesticides.org for studies linking pesticides to asthma, etc.]
A 1996 study of children exposed to Chlorpyrifos in utero found extensive and unusual patterns of birth defects, including hands, feet, eyes, ears, palate, genitals, heart and brain, similar to defects found in tested animals. [www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chlorpyrifos].
Paul Winchester, M.D., Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, writes: "We used U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide usage data, and found that counties with the highest pesticide rates had the highest birth defect rates... [In California] we found that prematurity rates... even more dangerous than birth defects... go up directly with the amount of pounds per acre of pesticides that are used in a particular county." The same study has an implicit warning for women trying to conceive. The four months May through August, when pesticide runoff is highest in U.S. surface waters (thus in tap water used for drinking), present the highest risk of birth defects for women who conceive in those months. ["Reproductive Problems Peak with Pesticide Exposure," Pesticides and You, fall 2010]
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1999 documented over 2,300 reported pesticide poisonings of school students and staff over a three-year-period. [www.gao.gov/newitems/re00017, in "Schooling of State Pesticide Laws, 2010 Update" in Pesticides and You, fall 2009] A 2010 study found that each tenfold increase in urinary concentrations of organophosphate residuals was associated with a 55 to 72% increase in the risk of ADHD. [http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/721592]
Here are some statistics on U.S. children's 'environmental diseases' linked to pesticide contamination: "Cancer threatens the lives of 58,000 children... About six million children suffer (and some of them die) from asthma. Twelve million have some form of developmental disorder, from autism to ADHD and severe learning disabilities that cloud their minds and torment their behavior... Of America's 73 million children, almost 21 million, nearly one out of three, suffer from one chronic disease or another." [Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on our Children / Philip Shabecoff & Alice Shabecoff, p.38]
In the November 8, 1999 issue of U.S. News & World Report, an investigative article, "The Stuff in the Backyard Shed" by Jim Harris, exposed bizarre effects among thousands of Chlorpyrifos 'incidents' reported to the EPA, and stated: "Pesticide manufacturers have sent some 7,000 reports of adverse reactions to Chlorpyrifos. An EPA analysis found that the chemical was suspected in 17,771 incidents reported to U.S. poison-control centers between 1993 and 1996. More than half the cases involved children under six."
"On June 6, 2000, the U.S. EPA and Dow AgroSciences reached an agreement to stop the sale of most home, lawn and garden uses for Chlorpyrifos because of its health risks to children." Dealers were given until December 2001 to sell off their inventories [www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chlorpyrifos] (suggesting why the EPA has been accused of colluding with manufacturers to keep dangerous pesticides on the market for as long as possible).
At this time in history when one-third of U.S. children suffer from diseases triggered by chemical contaminants in our air, water and food, it seems like sheer lunacy to continue spraying in front yards a chemical long ago banned from back yards as hazardous to children!
How Insecticides Became Chemical Weapons
In a recent book, The War on Bugs, historian Will Allen traces present-day pesticides back to I.G. Farben, the prolific German chemical consortium which, during World War II, was forced to collaborate with the Nazi regime to develop its insecticidal nerve poisons into 'chemical weapons.' Organophosphates and other nerve poisons were tested on prisoners in the concentration camps, as well as on dogs, ferrets and rats, writes Allen, so there is no doubt their toxicity was well known when the chemical formulas became available to the victorious Allied forces (and chemists) following World War II. [p. 217]
By the end of 1944, the Nazi regime had produced 12,000 tons of the nerve gas Tabun loaded onto projectiles and aircraft bombs. ["A Short History of the Development of Nerve Gases," www.noblis.org/MissionAreas/nsi/BackgroundonChemicalWarfare] When I.G. Farben was prosecuted for war crimes, a number of its officials who knowingly supported the lethal gassings and related atrocities faced years in prison. [Hell's Cartel /Diarmuid Jeffreys] But the formulas for its 'chemical weapons' were used in the Iran-Iraq war, in genocide against the Kurds, in a terrorist attack on a Tokyo subway -- and in dilute form as insecticides for U.S. farms, households, schools, factories, and mosquito-spray programs. [The War on Bugs /Will Allen]
The horrific body damage inflicted by 'mustard gas' experiments in World War I, and the recognition that such weapons could never be contained within a targeted geographical zone, led to the 1925 Geneva Convention outlawing chemical weapons. Because this treaty went largely ignored during World War II, and because of a disastrous chemical spill in 1984, by 1992 there was initiation of an enlarged United Nations mandate, "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling & Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction" (shortened to "Chemical Weapons Convention"). By 2009 it had been ratified by 188 countries including the United States, and was being enforced with the ongoing inspection and destruction of stockpiled chemical weapons. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_Weapons_Convention]
This monumental success was spurred by 1984's 'worst industrial accident in history.' In Bhopal, India, a toxic cloud of methyl-iso-cyanate had leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide factory, killing 9,000 people in the first three days and 25,000 in the years that followed, leaving thousands more still suffering severe health problems from the exposure. However, 10,000 pounds of the same chemical, MIC, are stored in a Bayer CropScience facility in West Virginia, where a 2008 explosion in a waste tank killed two people, luckily not exploding the MIC. ["No Justice in Bhopal 25 Years after Explosion," Pesticides and You, winter 2009-10]
This means that the threat is not just from terrorists, but from the very system itself. The post-disaster '9/11 Commission' certainly recognized the risks presented by pesticide plants storing tons of potential weapons. It urged security upgrades in chemicals' storage and transport, encountering obstacles from the industry due to cost. [Failed States /Noam Chomsky, p. 32]
Whether or not we consider pesticides as 'agents of mass destruction,' we can easily phone the offices of our elected representatives, emphasizing our own personal reasons for enactment of a ban on mosquito sprays. Fifty such calls could be decisive. (City and state legislators and health officials will have received notice of this report.)
TASD or anyone else spraying officially-recognized nerve poisons, respiratory poisons, hormone disruptors, and known or suspected agents of cancer, would appear to violate: all laws prohibiting air pollution and water pollution; health department / nuisance laws against endangering public health; state laws prohibiting the poisoning of streets and yards, state laws prohibiting pesticides that endanger the environment; Constitutional rights to safety of person and property; safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment in the U.S. Constitution and the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (article 5); an international treaty outlawing chemical weapons; the universal ethical principle of 'Do no harm' that all major religions promote in common; and mandates of the Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declaration (explained below).
Following World War II, the world was shocked to learn from survivors of prison camps about the lethal and sublethal gassings and torturing of living prisoners which had gone on in the name of 'biomedical research.' In an effort to prevent these atrocities from happening again, the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1947 were accompanied by the drafting of the "Nuremberg Code -- Regulations and Ethical Guidelines for Human Experimentation." On the list: "The research subject should be able to end participation at any time... The study will be promptly stopped if adverse effects are seen." [http://ohst.od.nih.gov/guidelines/nuremberg.html] Further ethical criteria were written into the World Medical Association's 2006 "Declaration of Helsinki," including: "results should be publicly available... A researcher should stop a study if risks are found to outweigh potential benefits... Participants must be volunteers and give their informed consent." [http://www.wma.net/e/policy/63.htm -- both cited p.64-65 in Essentials of Global Health /Richard Skolnik]
These standards should certainly compel TASD and its suppliers to provide full public disclosure of all exposure risks, and to abruptly end their inhumane experimentation on our citizenry -- because known and foreseeable risks far outweigh any benefits.
Envisioning TASD in the Community, Protecting Nature
Lucas County citizens accustomed to 'working with nature' as gardeners, beekeepers, biologists, Metroparks employees, wildlife enthusiasts, parents seeking safe, pleasurable, learning-from-nature surroundings for their children -- whatever our background, we welcome efforts to 'detoxify' our world. The best place to start is with mosquito control, by prohibiting the least effective method (spraying), and engaging in the most effective method, heightening public awareness and action to eliminate stagnant 'standing water' where mosquitoes breed. [based on CDC publications]
The TASD web site, www.tasd-mosquitoes.org, posts an excellent to-do list for people with yards, "How to Help Reduce Mosquitoes in Your Area." It includes such chores as cleaning out clogged gutters, tightening leaky water-spigots and hose connections so they don't create puddles, making sure carts, wheelbarrows and wading pools are turned over when not in use, hosing out birdbaths once a week, screening rain barrels, leveling low spots in the yard, etc.
Yet even if every yard owner in the county had this list personally hand-delivered, it would not guarantee these tasks being achieved. This is why TASD should use its fleet of white trucks (carrying tools instead of tanks) to transport tactful, persuasive, agile young staffers into every residential street to physically assist residents with these tasks. Pre-alert door-tags might say: "We'll Help You Mosquito-proof Your Yard! TASD staff will be in your area the week of _____. Please call us to set up a free half-hour appointment between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the day most convenient for you." Staff resourcefulness, minimal paperwork, and at least one follow-up visit should ensure compliance with TASD's goal of mosquito reduction. (TASD already does yard inspections for foreclosed or untreated pools, junk tires, etc. and can legally confiscate nuisance objects.)
TASD would continue its valuable off-season work of clearing away the fallen branches that clog streams and create stagnant pools where mosquitoes incubate. [TASD 64th Annual Report for 2010] It would also continue to supply 'mosquitofish' (Gambusia affinis, one to two inches long) to people with ponds and water gardens (although goldfish and minnows reportedly perform the same service). TASD staff could train adolescents to build bird- and bat-houses... Experts claim that one healthy bat can consume up to four thousand mosquitoes in one night, plus garden pests. [New York Times Gardening Questions & Answers] (Ironically, BAT is the scientists' acronym for 'Best Available Technology'!) Finally, if people call in requesting mosquito spray, TASD can explain why that is not a good idea, and refer them to this report.
The following stories -- and the issues they raised about mosquito immunity, hazards to human health, pets and wildlife -- stimulated the research compiled in the previous article.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MOSQUITO SPRAY:
PERSONAL STORIES FROM CITIZENS
I owe my whole career to mosquito spray.
Jerry Olsen, a retired biologist living in Oregon, Ohio, recalls, "Around 1961 I was a young peon stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The Army had discovered that more men were dying from mosquito-borne disease than from getting shot. Somehow I got attached to a 'preventive medicine' unit of about thirty men. We were assigned to inspect the mess halls, and also to monitor the 'mosquito light-traps' that were trapping over a hundred mosquitoes each night. One of our lab people was an old-timer from the Philippines who could barely speak English, but he could identify just about any mosquito on earth. We always kept good records, and one day we decided to find out whether the DDT being sprayed all over the Fort was still killing mosquitoes. Our tests showed that the mosquitoes were completely immune to the DDT! So the Fort changed to a different chemical. I later became a sergeant, and after the Army, decided to go into wildlife biology."
My brother worked for Toledo's Mosquito Control department.
"My brother worked several years driving a truck that sprayed mosquito pesticide all over Lucas County. He never complained about it, but his behavior changed. He would get angry at small things that happened. Later we found out he'd developed schizophrenia; we blamed it on the spray. It affected him for years, until he fell down a steep flight of stairs and died from the injury."-Leah F.
We couldn't believe anyone would treat us like that!
"We moved from Michigan in July, on the hottest day of the summer. On our first night in the new house, right after tucking our infant son into bed, my husband and I sat down on the sofa, exhausted from unpacking all day. We heard a strange noise and smelled sickening fumes, and realized something was horribly wrong. I complained to the health department, the county commissioners, the mayor's office, and they all told me they weren't responsible, I should call TASD. The biologist there was very polite and told me they would put the property on their no-spray list, but some of my neighbors made a fuss. When I called the mayor's office, a woman assistant to Jack Ford told me she'd fallen asleep with the radio on and woke up with her apartment full of spray fumes. She was terriified because she was pregnant." -Peggy M.
We had TASD spray our backyard, then noticed an oily film on our pond.
"We live in Sylvania Township, on the outskirts of Toledo. During a rainy season my husband and I were calling Mosquito Control about once a week to spray our back yard. But when we noticed an oily film on our pond, we were worried about our fish and frogs and decided to stop. The spraying only kept mosquitoes away a couple days anyway, and we didn't want our wildlife to suffer from it. Now we have our goldfish eating the mosquito larvae, and our frogs, birds and bats eating the flying ones. And our bees are not endangered now!" -Beth P.
I wish they would stop using it and scaring everyone.
"Every time I notice the mosquito truck coming down the street, I grab my cat if I can, then run inside to close the windows and turn off the air-conditioner so that poison doesn't get into the house. I wish they'd stop using it and scaring everyone!'" -Kathy F.
Mosquito spray caused my cat to suffer terribly.
"I was working late in my front yard when the mosquito truck came. It wasn't supposed to spray my property, but made a mistake, and I saw my cat run right through the mist heading home. Its eyes were 'tearing' for weeks, and it wheezed and struggled to breathe. After further problems, the vet told me I could either pay hundreds of dollars for treatment, or they could put it away for sixty dollars. I buried it in the back yard next to its mother and the dog they grew up with." -Susan S.
My dog and I got that blasted mosquito-fog all over us!
"Years ago, one evening I was walking my dog in a wooded park in South Toledo. We were about 30 feet from the road when I noticed a spray truck. I shouted at the driver, cursing because I was so furious, but I doubt he heard me. I was more worried about the dog, but maybe I should have been worried about myself too." -Geoffrey L.
There might be international treaties prohibiting chemical warfare...
"After 9/11, I didn't talk about it, but I was thinking that terrorists could hijack mosquito trucks and spray nerve poison all over the city, and we'd be so used to the sight that nobody would stop them. I know that after World War I there was a big attempt to eliminate the use of mustard gas and some other chemicals that had done horrible things to people. I think there are international treaties prohibiting chemical warfare but I'm not sure." -Dennis D.
My brother and I were talking and didn't notice the mosquito truck.
"My brother and I had just come out of the house, and were standing near the street. We were so absorbed in our conversation that we didn't realize the mosquito truck was coming. So we were forced to breathe that horrible stuff before we could get away." -Donna E.
We were glad when Bedford Township stopped the mosquito-spraying.
"We never liked the mosquito spraying, so we were really glad when Bedford Township discontinued it. This summer we didn't get any more mosquitoes than usual. A few nights ago my husband looked up into the sky and showed me the bats circling around. That made us happy, since we know healthy bats eat hoards of mosquitoes every night." -Nancy E.
My dad used to spray garlic juice all over our yard.
"In the 'eighties when I was growing up in urban Detroit, each summer my dad would mix up a water solution of liquefied garlic and hot pepper, maybe a few other things -- and he would spray it all over our yard, bushes and everything, to keep mosquitoes away. There was a strong smell for a few hours, then it went away, but it repelled the mosquitoes for about three weeks. Then my dad would do another treatment, using his backpack sprayer. The good thing about garlic is that it doesn't damage the beneficial wildlife. Now I'm a professor at Owens Community College and give slide-lectures on improving your soil ("Don't Call It Dirt!"), container gardening, etc. -- that's how I help 'Toledo Grows' encourage gardening!" -Matt Ross
Mosquito Spray Killed My Butterfly Larvae.
I know from my biology training that butterfly larvae have different plants they prefer. In a previous garden of mine, I recognized the black-and-yellow larvae of swallowtail butterflies feeding on my dill plants, and I was happy. But the very next day after the mosquito truck went by, the larvae were gone. A lot of insects are beneficial, but mosquito sprays kills all of them. -Gary Y.
I remember the DDT they used to spray.
I remember how many times I had to get up in the middle of the night and shut the windows when the kids were growing up. -Jane R.
DDT sprayed for mosquitoes ruined our family outings.
"I remember when I was young, the unannounced DDT trucks with their nauseating fumes, completely ruining the pleasure of a campground, a beach, a sporting event, backyard picnics... and sending everyone gasping and running for cover. Once in grade school I stayed late to talk with my teacher, and someone came down the hall spraying DDT for bugs! I really believe all those exposures were responsible for my hormone problems, and my brother's nerve disease that he's had since his twenties. -Sue C.
Disclaimer: The information included in this report is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The Western Lake Erie Sierra Club is not liable for errors or omissions. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact Susan Searles, at email@example.com.