Spray Truck Spews Pesticides in Brooklyn

16 Years of Toxic Pesticide Spraying Across NYC: When will it end?

Spray Truck Spews Pesticides in Brooklyn
Spray truck spews pesticides in Brooklyn (2006)

For the eighth time this summer, New York City government is spraying toxic pesticides, this time in Brooklyn Wednesday night, August 19th. It is one of hundreds of times pesticides have been sprayed throughout NYC over the last 16 years allegedly to control West Nile virus.

The De Blasio Administration has continued in the same manner as the Mayor’s predecessors in the Bloomberg Administration, and the Giuliani Administration which started it all.

Original artwork by Robert Lederman
Original artwork by Robert Lederman

The City is downplaying the dangers of these pesticides, primarily the pyrethroid Anvil 10 + 10 and the carcinogen Piperonyl Butoxide, among other dangerous chemicals in their composition. That’s the City’s propaganda.

These chemicals inflict great harm to human health and the environment. They also kill beneficial insects including dragonflies, butterflies, bees, and harm wildlife, animals, fish and pets.

As was the case with the previous administrations, there is a continued lack of notification. And because there is so little media coverage of this, most people are likely unaware that the spraying is even occurring. They first become aware when they return home from the subway, are out walking their dog, playing basketball, eating in an outdoor restaurant, or as they have their windows open and see or hear the spray truck whizzing by with no notice beforehand (there may be a police car which emits a muffled announcement seconds before). The chemicals remain on playground equipment that their children play on the next day.

Several studies show that mosquito spraying actually increases the number of mosquitoes. Manhattan has not been sprayed in years and has zero “mosquito pools.”

And the City continues to advocate the use of DEET. DEET is absolute poison for children especially. Meanwhile, the Health Department states that children’s toys and play equipment left outside in the spray can be cleaned of pesticides by “washing with soap and water.” That’s it? No gloves? No special preparations needed? If the spraying is safe, as the City maintains, why the concern with washing off the children’s playthings? Shutting windows? Keeping your air conditioner on, with the outside vent closed?

A press release from the NYC Dept of Health issued August 16, 2015 states that the first human case of West Nile Virus Infection for 2015 resulted in the New York resident being briefly hospitalized, treated, and discharged. And now they’re poisoning thousands of people?!

“This first case of West Nile virus disease in New York City provides a vital reminder to protect ourselves against mosquito bites,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors, and long sleeves and pants in the morning and evening will reduce your risk of infection. New Yorkers age 60 and older or persons with weakened immune systems should be especially careful as they are more likely to become seriously ill, and in rare instances die, if infected.”


What Dr. Bassett leaves out is that this same demographic — and add children to it — are even more greatly affected by the pesticides spraying. Why omit that obvious point if human health is the concern?

Human cases of West Nile virus occur each year in New York City, typically from July through October. A total of 318 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile virus since it was first found in the United States in 1999. That’s an average of around 20 people per year, and most of those people have fully recovered. Which is not to minimize the tragic consequences of WNV to a few people. But poisoning an entire population is not the way to deal with this situation. It is insane.

The City government also stresses that it is applying just a small amount of chemical pesticides (adulticides) to kill adult mosquitoes. Those “small amounts” are just as poisonous — and they bio-accumulate in the body’s tissues year after year — as any other “small amount” of poison. The minimizing of the dangers by the City is completely misleading. It is propaganda and anti-scientific, and Dr. Bassett should (and probably does) know better. It is designed to make the spraying seem OK to the average New Yorker who trusts health officials not to lie to them in this way.

The Dept of Health staff are now issuing reports advocating their spray program. These are often secretarial workers with no expertise or health “experts” who are invested ideologically in the charade of spraying and thus cannot afford to believe that there are untenable risks. There has been no independent review or analysis of pesticides’ impacts on the environment and human health commissioned by NY City officials since the spray program began. Meanwhile, the Health Department would have the general public believe that “there is no significant risk.”

There is great risk. Mass spraying of pesticides is no way to deal with the incidence of mosquitoes said to be carrying West Nile Virus. Increasing, instead, the natural predators of mosquitoes — dragonflies, birds, bats, frogs — is far more effective and much less dangerous.

The harm being done by this spraying needs to end and a new framework be put into place.

The No Spray Coalition demands that the City stop its deadly pesticides spraying program Now — stop poisoning humans and the environment as well as the entire eco-system, animals, wildlife and insects.

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Here is a map of the area in Brooklyn to be sprayed Wednesday night August 19th which includes zip codes: 11210, 11229, 11234, and 11235 which includes parts of Georgetown, Mill Basin, Flatlands, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Marine Park, Midwood, and Mill Island and zip codes 11204, 11209, 11214, 11219, 11223, and 11228 which includes parts of Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, Fort Hamilton, and New Utrecht.