Don’t Spray Me! was founded in September 2015 by residents of West Chester PA and surrounding communities to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment.
In August 2015, the Chester County Health Department announced that it planned to spray the insecticide Permanone in the northeast part of West Chester, on Marshall Square Park (which made particularly little sense as there is no standing water there; any mosquitoes would fly in from elsewhere), A group of concerned citizens circulated a petition requesting that the Borough ask the Department to cease and desist until more data about the human and environmental safety of the pesticide in question became available.
With the support of more than 400 signers, of our mayor at the time, Carolyn Comitta, and of our Borough Council, we won our first victor5. Borough officials agreed with us that the small risk of West Nile Virus was not worth risking the health of thousands of borough residents and the associated environmental damage, including the killing of bees and other beneficial insects, the poisoning of run-off water, and the danger to pets. The Department of Health agreed to not spray in West Chester at that time.
Later that year, a 2012 mosquito task force was revived, with County and Borough officials and concerned citizens. That committee made a series of recommendations to address the mosquito problem and reduce mosquito breeding in the Borough. In 2019, West Chester Borough took over from the County the responsibility of larviciding mosquito breeding spots in the Borough.
Don’t Spray Me! is a founding member of the West Chester Green Team (logo below), whose mission is to promote green living in the West Chester Area. The Green Team’s other member groups are Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP), Plastic-Free Please Action Group, and the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100% Renewable Energy campaign.
From 2015-19 Don’t Spray Me! worked within the Sustainability Committee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Group of the Sierra Club, and also reached out to local groups that share our environmental concerns. Don’t Spray Me! is also a founding member of the Chester County Environment Alliance.
Don’t Spray Me! reaches out through social media, signs, regular events, and citizen action. We let people, businesses, and non-profits know how not to breed mosquitoes on their property and how to cut down on chemical use. We urge local governments to distribute similar information and to larvicide standing water rather than allowing spraying.
Our logo is a baby in a gas mask that was featured in our first yard signs (on the right below) in 2016. We introduced our “Happy Baby” signs (on the left below) in 2017 for those who wish to emphasize that in West Chester and many other locations we had in fact not been sprayed (although many locations, including West Chester, were sprayed late in the 2018 season).
Our signs symbolize our desire to protect the environment and people, particularly the young, who are most vulnerable from the dangers of chemical poisons.
We are now a group of about 400 concerned citizens with teams in West Chester Borough, East Bradford, West Goshen and Westtown working in our neighborhoods on these important environmental issues. We have branched out successfully into ending Roundup use by the Borough government. With the help of paid summer interns, we have also worked with young people on killing weeds in sidewalks without toxic chemicals, monitoring storm drains, and gardening organically. In implementing community education, we have organized several community picnics and cosponsored Earth Day observations and a regular fall environmental film festival at West Chester University.
We are in agreement with the large and growing body of research showing that spraying airborne pesticides for mosquito control poses serious threats to the environment and human health and is the least effective form of mosquito control. We favor non-toxic measures, such as larviciding and reducing mosquito breeding sites by education of residents. We are following the lead of many communities across the nation that have banned spraying for mosquitoes, some more than 15 years ago, with no adverse human health consequences. The resolution in Lyndhurst OH and the plan in Shaker Heights OH have inspired our work here in Chester County PA. We are also following the lead of the state of California in warning people about the dangers of RoundUp/glysophate. Young people are interested and involved in all these efforts.
Our very recognizable signs have been very successful in getting out our message, with hundreds in place across the County during the mosquito season. The mood of our 2018 sign, pictured below, is in the middle between 2016 and 2017, pictured above.
We urge all municipalities to examine these issues, to create detailed plans to control mosquitoes without spray, and thus to protect residents and the environment.