2006 Pesticide Spraying in New York City; City Again Sprays Crowded NYC Streets
The New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) sprayed the dangerous pesticide “Anvil” in sections of Brooklyn last month and continues to fog Staten Island, purportedly to kill mosquitoes which may or may not be carrying West Nile virus. City officials also ordered spraying in Queens and the Bronx.
The first spraying of the year in Brooklyn took place on the evening of August 21. The spray truck – now driven by unionized NYC workers wearing DOHMH insignias – recklessly spewed pesticides in a thick cloud down crowded 5th Avenue in Sunset Park and in the surrounding area in utter disregard of the hundreds of people walking the streets. The truck blasted pregnant women and many, many little children with the spray, and fogged people in dozens of restaurants – their doors wide open – without warning as they ate.
The City put up no signs in the neighborhoods announcing the spraying. They made no public warnings about the dangers of pesticides, the links between pesticides and asthma – which is epidemic throughout New York City — childhood cancers, lymphomas, neurological disorders, chemical sensitivities . . . nothing. 1
This year, City officials have put forth even less information than in the past as to why they decide to spray pesticides. In addition, they have started spraying earlier in the evening, even though people are more likely to be on the streets and directly affected by the spraying.
The NoSpray Coalition learned about the plan to spray in Brooklyn earlier that same day and set up a literature table near at the “F” train exit on the corner of McDonald Avenue and Albemarle Rd. in the residential Kensington section shortly before the spraying began. Around a dozen participants distributed hundreds of flyers, spoke with local store owners, and held a Speak-Out right there on the corner.
Speakers noted that the pesticides spewed from the trucks are endocrine (hormone) disruptors that may cause cancer, and are especially dangerous to children, the elderly, and those who are immune compromised. 2
The pesticides also kill off natural predators of mosquitoes such as dragonflies, which eat large amounts of mosquitoes every hour. The result of each round of spraying is MORE, not fewer, mosquitoes. 3
As public awareness grows, people have begun taking to the streets. In recent months, protests against pesticides have taken place in Winnipeg (Canada), Chicago, Florida, St. Louis, and California.
Nevertheless, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City refuses to listen. “It’s as though the City Department of Health has learned nothing in all these years,” Coalition spokesperson Mitchel Cohen told Brooklyn News 12, which broadcast an extensive report on opposition to the spraying. FOX-News also sent a camera person. 1010-WINS all-news radio ran interviews as well as radio stations in Troy NY, and Massachusetts, and the local papers carried stories on the spraying, quoting extensively from the Coalition’s press release on the dangers of pesticides. Ula Kuras, a reporter for IndyMedia, wrote a very good story that was featured on the front page of the IndyMedia website:
The pesticide mixture that the City continues to spray this year contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide. It also contains so-called “inert ingredients,” which, despite the innocuous-sounding category (“inert” ingredients), are also dangerous. In addition, pyrethroids such as Sumithrin, the active ingredient in Anvil 10 + 10, have been shown to be hormone (endocrine) disruptors and neurotoxins as well as serious lung irritants. (see “What’s In the Pesticides?”)
And, in addition to being dangerous to people and the environment, an important new study shows that pyrethroid spraying is not even effective in reducing the number of the next generation of mosquitoes. 4
Why does the City continue to pursue this senseless way of killing mosquitoes?
Some Coalition members believe it has little to do with public health and more to do with creating the need for and justifying the use of million of dollars in federal funds. They note that all federal funds related to West Nile-carrying mosquitoes are coming from the so-called “Anti-Terrorism” budget. “There are no federal funds any longer for public health,” Cohen said. “Researchers and public health officials have told us that in order to receive funds from Washington – and this was as much under Clinton/Gore before 9-11 as it is under Bush – they had to frame the issue as part of the fight against terrorism. It is a devil’s bargain.”
Indeed, the so-called pesticide ’cure’ jeopardizes many, many more people than West Nile virus is said to do, as well as pets, bees, butterflies, fish and the natural environment. There are numerous effective ways to repel mosquitoes – poisoning us all is not one of them.
The No Spray Coalition has called for people throughout the City to protest the spraying, Some may block the spray trucks. Others may do theater, write to their local government officials, hand out flyers in their neighborhoods and schools, or take other actions deemed necessary to save our lives from the dangerous sprays the City is using.
The Coalition has also contacted the drivers’ union, as spray truck drivers a few years ago were diagnosed at Mt. Sinai hospital with serious ailments due to pesticide poisoning.
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Additional photos from this spraying of people on Brooklyn streets can be seen here.
2. Pesticides have cumulative, multigenerational, degenerative impacts on human health, especially on the development of children which may not be evident immediately and may only appear years or even decades later.
- Physicians and Scientists for a Healthy World, The Multigenerational, Cumulative and Destructive Impacts of Pesticides on Human Health, Especially on the Physical, Emotional and Mental Development of Children and Future Generations. A Submission to The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, February 2000;
- Guillette, Elizabeth, et al: Anthropological Approach to the Evaluation of Pre-school Children Exposed to Pesticides in Mexico. Environmental Health Perspective, Vol. 106, No.6, June 1998;
- Kaplan, Jonathan et al. Failing Health. Pesticides Use in California Schools. Report by Californians for Pesticide Reform, 2002, American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Environmental Health;
- Moulton, Patricia, et al: Chronic Exposure to Pesticides and Intellectual Performance in Children, American Psychological Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, Aug. 13, 2006.
- Ambient Air Pollution: Respiratory Hazards to Children, Pediatrics 91, 1993.
3. Studies done in New York state for mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis found a 15-fold increase in mosquitoes after repeated spraying, and virtually all of the new generations of mosquitoes were pesticide-resistant. Journal of the Am Mosquito Control Assoc, Dec; 13(4):315-25, 1997 Howard JJ, Oliver New York State Department of Health, SUNY-College ESF, Syracuse 13210.
4. “Efficacy of Resmethrin Aerosols Applied from the Road for Suppressing Culex Vectors of West Nile Virus,” Michael R. Reddy, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, et. al., Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, Volume 6, Number 2, June 2006.
Update: Lawsuit against NYC Government
The No Spray Coalition is an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization that formed seven years ago to oppose New York City’s mass-spraying of Malathion and Pyrethroids by helicopter and truck. Since that time, the Coalition has grown substantially by working alongside other environmental justice organizations and individuals and supporting each others’ work. As a result, anti-pesticides activities have increased throughout the continent. The No Spray Coalition, along with other activist groups, has become expert in the dangers of pesticides and in presenting alternative and non-toxic means for dealing with mosquitoes and other critters considered to be pests.
In 2000, the No Spray Coalition became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against New York City. Other plaintiffs include the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (Beyond Pesticides), Disabled In Action, Save Organic Standards – NY, Valerie Sheppard (in Memoriam), Mitchel Cohen, Robert Lederman, and Eva Yaa Asantewaa.
Our legal team is headed by Joel Kupferman (of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project) and Karl S. Coplan (of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc.)
Last year, Federal District Judge Daniels upheld, for the most part, the No Spray Coalition’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The trial was set to go forward solely on the question of whether or not the City sprayed over navigable waterways. Since that time, the Coalition and the NYC government have become engaged in some rather intense rounds of negotiations in an attempt to reach a settlement.
Why negotiate instead of going to trial? The advantage for NYC is obvious — to avoid risking a “guilty” verdict finding that they sprayed over navigable waterways and broke the law. While the NoSpray Coalition has amassed a great deal of testimony and video clips that this was indeed the case, we believe that there are substantial advantages at this time for opponents of pesticide spraying to try to arrive at a settlement, so long as it contains language expressing a clear recognition of the dangers of pesticides and stipulates ecological remediation. These, we feel, would be an important advance over what we might win at trial should the City be found guilty of violating the law.
We were in the midst of finalizing a possible settlement when the City began this latest and horrible round of pesticide spraying. We still hold out hope that we will be able to reach a negotiated settlement, but the reckless spraying that the City is currently doing indicates to us that officials have not learned the lessons that even many of its own public health officials had outlined.
Over the next few weeks, while we continue negotiations, we also need to raise thousands of dollars to pursue the lawsuit (should negotiations collapse), as well as to intensify our work on the ground. We will be leafleting different areas of New York City against the spraying, and we are expanding our website to include more reports from across the continent. Please send reports of activities in your neighborhood to us, photos, etc.! (If you know how to add material to websites and have some time to contribute, we can sure use your help, too.)
As an all-volunteer group — none of us gets paid — the NoSpray Coalition depends on the consciousness and generosity of our supporters. Funds are desperately needed. Whatever you can contribute would be very helpful.
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