NY City to spray toxic pesticides over Brooklyn & Queens again, tonight. Is the spraying under Mayor de Blasio worse than under Bloomberg?

Tonight (Monday, September 21, 2015), the City will be spraying (from trucks) the pyrethroid pesticide Anvil 10+10 in the Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill areas of Brooklyn and parts of Queens, including Astoria and Elmhurst. Happy Yom Kippur! (See maps below. The spray area includes WBAI radio’s new offices at The Commons on Atlantic Avenue.)

Not only is the City spraying more pesticides this summer than in the 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg, but the propaganda used by the NYC Department of Health to rationalize subjecting the entire City to toxic spray is filled with distortions and outright lies.

Last week, Cathryn Swan and Mitchel Cohen of the No Spray Coalition met in City Hall with aides to Mayor de Blasio about the spraying. The Mayor’s aides raised three points:

1) They’re not going to stop the spraying. That’s their framework. They inquired as to less-toxic-to-people chemicals they could use. We told them that we wanted the spraying of toxins stopped altogether, as the “solution” they’re applying to mosquitoes is cancer-causing with other serious health and environmental impacts. It won’t show up immediately and so the ramifications to human health, wildlife, animals & the environment are not at first obvious;

2) The low incidence of people affected by West Nile Virus, they said, is a direct consequence of all the pesticide spraying. “See, it’s working”. (Studies show that mosquitoes’ breeding cycle is much quicker than the wildlife that feeds on them — dragonflies, bats, frogs, birds, etc. — and that are devastated by the spraying, so that, according to those peer-reviewed studies, following each round of spraying there are more mosquitoes than before it.)

3) It’s a very low concentration of the carcinogen Piperonyl Butoxide and the estrogen-mimicker Sumithrin, so what’s your worry?, it’s perfectly safe when applied properly (no, not even then — which is outlined explicitly on this website (here and elsewhere) with information from Dr. Robert Simon, toxicologist, among others).

Frankly, it’s astounding that each city administration continues to spout the same misinformation, as one read-through of the No Spray Coalition website answers each of those “points” in depth, and explains why the spraying of dangerous and often deadly pesticides is horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, the City Department of Health continues to apply for waivers to anti-pesticides provisions in Local Law 37, and then the same people making the application grant themselves a waiver.

And, the Parks Department continues to apply the suspected carcinogen Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup) to Prospect Park and other areas of the City.

The community group Park Slope Neighbors explains the issue very nicely in its recent email newsletter:

More West Nile Virus Spraying (Northwest Park Slope), Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m. to Tuesday, September 22, 6:00 a.m.

According to Brooklyn Community Board 2, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is planning to spray pesticide from trucks in an effort to reduce the mosquito population and lower the risk of West Nile virus, this time in an area north of Degraw Street and west of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, as well as parts of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, beginning at 8:30 p.m. this Monday evening (9/21) and continuing through the night until 6 a.m. In case of rain, the spraying will be delayed one week, until Monday, September 28. A map of the area to be sprayed is below.

The Health Department will again be spraying what they describe as a “very low concentration” of Anvil 10+10, a synthetic pesticide. While they state that when properly used, the pesticide poses no significant risks to human health, they recommend that the public take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying
  • Close air conditioner vents or select the recirculate function if you’re using an air conditioner
  • Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying, and if outdoor equipment and toys are exposed during spraying, to wash them with soap and water before using them again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water, and always wash produce thoroughly before cooking or eating.

For more information, visit the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s West Nile virus page at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/wnv-home.shtml.

For our part, we believe the city downplays the dangers of pesticide use. The chemicals in Anvil 10+10 are harmful to human health and the environment, and they also kill beneficial insects including dragonflies, butterflies and bees, and are harmful to other wildlife and pets. Anvil 10 + 10 is especially dangerous to children.

The Department of Health states that children’s toys and play equipment left outside in the spray can be cleaned of pesticides by “washing with soap and water.” Such measures, and the warnings to shut windows and close air conditioner vents, would seem to contradict the “safe when used properly” claims, especially for people who are unknowingly exposed.

We’re also troubled by inadequate notification to the public about planned spraying. As of this writing, there is no notification posted on the Department of Health’s West Nile Virus Spraying Events page (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/wnv-spray.shtml), and since there is little media coverage of the spraying, many people will likely be unaware that the spraying is even occurring. They’ll first become aware when they’re returning home from the subway, are out walking their dog, eating in an outdoor restaurant, or when they see or hear the spray truck pass by with no notice beforehand save for a police vehicle preceding the sprayer by a few seconds.

A Department of Health press release states that the first and only human case of West Nile Virus infection for 2015 resulted in the victim being briefly hospitalized, treated, and discharged. West Nile Virus can cause serious illness or even death for people with compromised immune systems, but we’re concerned the preventative measures create unnecessary risk for the larger population.

For information from the No Spray Coalition, which opposes all pesticide spraying in New York City, visit http://nospray.org.

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