St. Louis, Missouri

GREEN PARTY ASKS CITY, COUNTY TO STOP MOSQUITO SPRAYING
By Ekaterina Pesheva
Of the Suburban Journals

09/01/2002

St. Louis, Missouri —
Spraying with powerful chemicals to kill mosquitoes and prevent the spread of
West Nile virus is like using a cannonball to shoot a bird, say local Green
Party activists.

Not only are health officials in St. Louis City and St. Louis County using
the heavy artillery for a relatively small problem, but they might be causing
more harm than good in the process, activists charged at a news conference
Wednesday.

“We are asking for the City of St. Louis and County of St. Louis to halt the
spraying for West Nile until we can assess what the true risk of the spraying
versus the virus is,” said Don Fitz, spokesperson for the Green Party of St.
Louis. “We feel the spraying has been done indiscriminately without adequate
precautions.”

Public health officials began a mosquito control offensive this spring after
the first reports of West Nile virus in the area. The plan includes using
chemicals to kill mosquito eggs in standing water outlets, as well as using
chemicals to kill adult mosquitoes by spraying.

Health officials say they are acting under the guidelines of a
multi-jurisdictional West Nile action plan, as well as under recommendations
from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC
recommends that spraying be done when cases of infected birds and humans are
reported.

Environmentalists, concerned about long-term effects of the insecticides, are
asking the city and county to halt spraying for the time being.

“We would like a moratorium on the spraying until we can have a public
hearing where different people can bring in all the facts,” Fitz said.
Not a chance, public officials say.

“They need to have good scientific documentation to show that the harm
exists,” said Larry Kettelhut, director of environmental health for St. Louis
City. “To ask us to stop spraying, to me, would make no sense. If we are
effectively eliminating some of the cases of West Nile, which I think we are,
my question would be why would you stop spraying?”

Opponents say spraying can cause allergic reactions, exacerbate asthma and,
in the long run, lead to nervous system damage, kidney damage and liver
toxicity.

“There is mounting evidence that the spraying itself may be more dangerous to
people than the problem we are trying to attack with it,” said Dr. Daniel
McKeel, professor of immunology and pathology at Washington University.
“Insecticides are being sprayed with aerial techniques so large plumes of
these materials are falling in very large doses along streets.”

McKeel also says spraying might eventually increase mosquitoes.
“If you spray long enough what you are actually killing more of is the
predators that keep mosquito population down,” McKeel said.

Jason Murphy, a candidate for St. Louis City license collector running on the
Green Party ballot, suggested that health officials should tackle the problem
by eliminating standing water and educating the public and physicians on
prevention.

But public health officials shake their heads saying these would not be
sufficient weapons in the war against the mosquito-borne disease.

“If we didn’t have people raising mosquitoes in their backyards, we wouldn’t
have to spray,” said Joan Bradford, director of vector control for St. Louis
County.

In addition, health officials say, the dose used for spraying is so small
that it doesn’t affect people, comparing it to a drop of water applied to an
area slightly smaller than a football field.

“It’s calibrated at a fraction of an ounce per acre,” Bradford said. “It’s
formulated to kill mosquitoes, and we only do it at times when mosquitoes are
active. This spray is short-lived, and there is no residual.”

The city uses Anvil 2 Plus 2, an insecticide with an active ingredient called
sumithrin. The county uses an insecticide with the active ingredient
permethrin, both of which occur naturally in marigolds and chrysanthemums.
“The products we are using are approved by the EPA and by the Missouri
Department of Agriculture,” Kettelhut said.

Dr. Becky Tominack, a toxicologist at St. Louis University, says the strategy
used so far is completely safe.

“There is an old saying in toxicology that the dose makes the poison,”
Tominack said. “Insects are sensitive to very tiny doses that don’t bother
people. In excess-if you drank it or drenched yourself in it-you could have
problems.”

Tominack agrees that in a very few people, the insecticides can cause
allergic reactions but says that more serious, long-term effects have not
been studied well.

 

****

September 23, 2002.
Green Party activists draw attention to effect of toxins in mosquito spraying
By Phil Sutin
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Activists allied with the Green Party have objected to St. Louis County’s spraying a pesticide to kill mosquitoes. They raised the issue last week at a public forum conducted by St. Louis County Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, in Webster Groves.

Because some female mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus that can kill people, the county’s mosquito-control efforts have become more important. Robin Barrett of St. Louis, a Green Party activist, said the spray included one of many toxins that give her health problems.

“I have multichemical sensitivity,” she said. “I need to be careful where I go.”

The county should concentrate its efforts on eliminating mosquito larvae, she added. “Use less toxins,” she said. “Help solve the problem.”

Joan Bradford, who is in charge of efforts to control mosquitoes and rats for the county, discussed at length the county’s efforts to kill larvae.

Her staff checks 6,000 sites in the county for mosquito larvae and puts out charcoal cubes with Altostat, the trade name for a bacteria that disrupts the digestive system of mosquitoes but does not affect other animals. Her agency also urges the public to remove standing water, the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as rainwater in the bottom of open garbage cans or in clogged gutters. Despite these efforts, spraying with the pesticide permethrin is necessary because many larvae become adult mosquitoes, she said. She said federal officials considered permethrin safe. The county, she noted, used a very small amount in its spray.

Odenwald said he supported the county’s mosquito-control efforts. He invited the activists to explain their concerns to his office and to provide more information. “The county uses spraying as a last resort,” he said.

On Friday, Odenwald said he had asked health officials to put the county’s mosquito spraying schedule on its Web site so people concerned about the spraying’s effect on them could react in time.

After the meeting, the activists circulated a Green Party handbill opposing spraying. “The massive use of pesticides may become a classic case of a cure being worse than the disease,” it said.

Terri Zeman of Brentwood is the Green Party’s candidate for county executive in the election on Nov. 5. Chad Parmenter of Maplewood is the Green Party’s candidate running against Odenwald and Daniel “Tim” Reardon, a Democrat from Grantwood Village, for the 5th District seat on the County Council.

Don Fitz of University City, the Green spokesman on toxin issues, said the party did not want to confront Odenwald politically at the forum. “We want to work with him,” he said.

Fitz urged the county to conduct a forum where officials can hear from experts and others favoring and opposing spraying and then set its policy. Odenwald said he hoped the council’s Justice and Health Committee, which he heads, could hold a meeting to discuss the spraying issue.

Reporter Phil Sutin:\E-mail: psutin@post-dispatch.com\ Phone: 314-863-2812 Monday, September 23, 2002

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