DSM endorses Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

At its November meeting, the Don’t Spray Me! board voted to sign on to support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI not only helps reduce PA’s inordinate emissions (4th highest state in the country) but also has increased jobs in the renewable energy sector and reduced energy costs.

In June, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order (download here), directing the Dept. of Environmental Protection to propose rules for bringing our state into compliance with RGGI; but interests in the PA General Assembly are trying to block this important effort.

See also “It’s not too late: RGGI can help Pa. combat climate change,” guest column by State Sen. Katie Muth and Amanda Lapham of PennEnvironment, Daily Local News, Nov 27, 2020.

Climate change is very relevant to DSM’s concerns, because air pollution, including the fossil fuel emissions that exacerbate climate change, have been shown to weaken human respiratory systems and render people (including children) more susceptible to serious complications and death from diseases like Covid-19. See more here.

If you would like to show your support as a concerned citizen, please fill out the petition at bit.ly/RGGIforPA. Here is the text of the petition.

Proposed Rulemaking: CO2 Budget Trading Program (#7-559)

To the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board:

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are submitting our public comment in support of Pennsylvania’s establishing a carbon dioxide budget trading program and joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), one of the nation’s most successful state-level programs for fighting climate change.

With each day that passes, climate change becomes a more urgent threat to our Commonwealth. Local impacts of the climate crisis in Pennsylvania include heat waves, worsening air quality that harms public health, more insect-borne diseases, more intense storms and flash flooding, and agricultural losses.

As the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation, Pennsylvania has a responsibility to reduce our emissions, and joining RGGI will put us on the right path. Over the past twelve years, this bipartisan program has had remarkable success for the participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Since 2008:

  • CO2 emissions in from RGGI states have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%;
  • Reductions in other air pollutants, including SO2 and NOx, that can lead to premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses have resulted in an additional $5.7 billion in health and productivity benefits;
  • Electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, while prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%;
  • The combined economies of the RGGI states have grown by 47%, during the first ten years of the program, outpacing growth in the rest of the country by 31%.

If Pennsylvania joins the program, it could reduce its carbon emissions by 188 million tons over its first decade in the program — that’s equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road. Moreover, joining RGGI will not only cut carbon pollution, but also reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution, yielding significant health benefits for Pennsylvanians. DEP projects that by joining RGGI, Pennsylvania will avoid hundreds of premature deaths and 30,000 hospital visits for respiratory illness such as asthma by 2030.

Critically, participation in RGGI will enable Pennsylvania to create jobs while reducing our greenhouse gases. DEP estimates that Pennsylvania would see a net increase of over 27,000 jobs by participating in the program.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must act now to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. RGGI is one of the best tools we have to do so and would create a solid foundation for other important policy steps, like expanding goals for renewable energy. For the sake of our climate, our environment, and our health, we urge Pennsylvania’s leaders to join RGGI without delay.

Graphic from PA DEP:

WEST CHESTER GREEN TEAM Silent Auction Nov. 25 – Dec. 5

Click HERE to view and bid on the 61 diverse and exciting items up for online auction to benefit environment and sustainability.  The West Chester Green Team, a CCEA member, is an alliance of four local environment-related citizen groups: Don’t Spray Me!Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP)Ready for 100 (i.e., 100% renewable energy), and Plastic-Free Please Action Group (PFP). Please boost our local initiatives… and enjoy holiday shopping at the same time!

Air pollution increases Covid mortality

Our respectful advice to Chester County:

Now is the time to stop the poisoning of our environment and jeopardizing the health of people and planet. Minority communities are hardest hit by poor air quality. To save lives, call a halt and go organic. Other counties, cities, in fact whole countries have done it. We are happy to provide models for Chester County on request. A first step would be to stop the spraying of any poisonous substance by the County and that includes all pesticides and herbicides. If it has -cide in the title –it kills.

Summary of research by Liam Hudgings: A significant number of studies have found a strong positive relationship between air pollution and the mortality rates due to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndromes, and more specifically Covid-19. Polluted air leads to an increased proclivity to chronic respiratory disease and inflammation, which in turn leads to a susceptibility to SARS viruses.

A Harvard study found that: “if Manhattan had lowered its average particulate matter level by just a single unit, or one microgram per cubic meter, over the past 20 years, the borough would most likely have seen 248 fewer COVID-19 deaths by this point (April 13, 2020) in the outbreak.”

Furthermore, multiple papers cited below found that even short-term exposure to air pollution had a significant effect on the coronavirus mortality rate. Thus, as the threat of a second wave and even an endemic adoption of COVID-19 into our community remain likely, it is pertinent to evaluate the actions that can be taken to avoid air pollution and other airborne irritants of the respiratory system.

One such irritant is Permethrin, an insecticide that Chester County has sprayed in a fog to kill mosquitoes. Exposure to sprayed pesticide has been proven to cause and exacerbate respiratory issues. Specifically for Permethrin, there is evidence that exposure can induce short-term breathing problems, and higher levels of toxicity have caused irregular breathing patterns in animal test subjects.

While this evidence is by no means conclusive, erring on the side of caution is always advisable, particularly in this case. The spraying of Permethrin is largely justified as a preventative measure for West Nile Virus despite the fact that very few WNV cases are reported in the area.

As the utility of Permethrin spraying is dubious at best, and spraying the pesticide itself presents the possibility of increasing the local COVID-19 mortality rate, it is in the public’s best interest to refrain from spraying.

Air Pollution and COVID-19/ SARS mortality rate, references:

Chen, Bing-Heng. “ Relationship Between Air Pollution and Daily Mortality of Sars in Beijing,” 2005. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ede.0000276437.22928.b8.

Conticini, Edoardo, Bruno Frediani, and Dario Caro. “Can Atmospheric Pollution Be Considered a Co-Factor in Extremely High Level of SARS-CoV-2 Lethality in Northern Italy?” Environmental Pollution 261 (2020): 114465. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.114465.

Cui, Yan, Zuo-Feng Zhang, John Froines, Jinkou Zhao, Hua Wang, Shun-Zhang Yu, and Roger Detels. “Air Pollution and Case Fatality of SARS in the People’s Republic of China: an Ecologic Study.” Environmental Health 2, no. 1 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069x-2-15.

King, Amanda. “Linking Air Pollution To Higher Coronavirus Death Rates.” Department of Biostatistics, April 13, 2020. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostatistics/2020/04/linking-air-pollution-to-higher-coronavirus-death-rates/.

Petition to your public officials to end mosquito spraying from Beyond Pesticides

See background write-up and sign the petition here. The Don’t Spray Me! board has approved signing on as an organization; please add your individual signature as well. The text of the petition is below. The URL at the very end downloads the pdf of “PUBLIC HEALTH MOSQUITO MANAGEMENT STRATEGY For Decision Makers and Communities,” a very thorough summary of issues related to mosquito control and spraying.

Mosquito spray programs, which target flying mosquitoes with highly toxic organophosphate or synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, are ineffective and endanger our health. These pesticides, which are generally applied as ultra-low-volume (ULV) formulations, will float in the air longer than usual because of their small droplet size, but will eventually land on lawns, gardens, and anything that is outside. That droplet size also allows them to be carried deeper into the lungs. These pesticides can cause a wide range of health effects in humans, including exacerbating respiratory illness like Covid-19, and harm our environment.

Symptoms of organophosphate poisoning in humans include numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness, incontinence, convulsions, and death. Some organophosphates have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and brain effects. Symptoms of synthetic pyrethroid poisoning include dermatitis and asthma-like reactions, eye and skin irritation, and flu-like symptoms. Synthetic pyrethroids are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast and prostate cancer. People with asthma and pollen allergies should be especially cautious. Exposure has resulted in deaths from respiratory failure.

Naled, an organophosphate commonly used for mosquito control, affects a variety of non-target animals, including fish, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and honey bees. Naled is moderately acutely toxic to mammals, moderately to very highly toxic to freshwater fish and birds, highly toxic to honey bees, and very highly toxic to freshwater aquatic invertebrates, and estuarine fish and invertebrates. Elevated mortality rates among honey bees have been documented after nighttime aerial ULV applications of naled. Synthetic pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish and honey bees, even in low doses. Beneficial insects, including mosquito predators like dragonflies, will be killed by synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates.

In addition to the dangers, spraying to kill adult mosquitoes (adulticiding) is the least effective mosquito control method. Close to 99.9% of sprayed chemicals goes off into the environment where they can have detrimental effects on public health and ecosystems, leaving 0.10% to actually hit the target pest. In addition, efforts to control the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases are encountering a big, though predictable, problem—mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticides.

There are better ways to manage mosquito problems. Outbreaks of disease-carrying mosquitoes often result from habitat disturbance, such as deforestation, impairing wetlands, and spraying insecticides. Restoring the health of ecosystems helps keep mosquitoes under control. Native minnows, for example, can provide effective control of mosquito larvae breeding in standing water. Where water cannot be emptied from containers, the bacterial larvicide Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis is a least-toxic option. A better mosquito management plan protects public health and the environment. Please tell our local and state health departments to abandon spraying and adopt a mosquito management plan that does not depend on toxic chemicals: bp-dc.org/mosquito-mgmt.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.

Insects we don’t want

Of course, all species are part of nature and part of the food chain. But birds, bats and others who consume mosquitoes must have more than their fill by now, and spotted lanternflies have no predators here. What can we do to cut down on the excess?

This red-bottomed bird bath in West Chester has mosquito eggs (the grain-like spots among the debris) floating on the surface. In another day, the eggs will hatch into larvae which will grow to about 3/8 inch long; they come to the surface to breathe, but forage for food farther down and will wriggle about if you tap the bird bath. A few more days and they become pupae, which look like small stalks hanging from the surface. Another day or two and the adult mosquitoes will emerge, spread its wings and fly away.

What do we do about it? Tip the water out of the bird bath (and all other sources of stagnant water) every few days!

Spotted lanternflies are a recent invasive species; their point of diffusion in the US seems to have been our part of Pennsylvania in about 2012. They have an attractive and even exotic look with some of their developmental phases (instars) being black with white spots and others featuring red. They suck sap from the stems of trees, some agricultural crops, shrubs like roses, and even lace vines. They favor newer, more tender growth… right where they (and their sticky excretions that host a blackish mold and the leaking sap that attracts other insects) do the most harm.

What do we do about it? The most environmental solution is to apply a band of sticky tape around any tree they are trying to crawl up. Only the adult phase has wings, and even those hop more than they fly; but they are very agile and hard to catch or squash. However, they definitely do not like being sprayed with a solution of dish soap and water; if you have an old spray bottle, that sends them hopping away and, after several applications, seems to deter them from returning to the same site.

The photo, from East Bradford, shows an early morning’s catch; by evening, the tape was entirely covered. You can almost feel sorry for them as you hear the crackling noise, like Rice Krispies in milk, of hundreds of feet lifting off the sticky tape, to no avail since all of the other 5 feet remain stuck. But do they feel sorry for the damage they do?

(If you use tape, be sure to cover it with chicken wire, as shown, to prevent birds from getting stuck as well.)

You might even think they are sort of cute… until you notice their tarry excretions killing everything underneath where they are sucking the sap of, in this case, a birch tree. Free Roundup, anyone?

Larviciding with Bti

A larvicide (or larvacide) kills larvae.

In a rare too-good-to-be-true moment, the biological agent Bti prevents mosquito larvae from maturing. It’s made from bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which affects no other forms of life except two other nuisance insects (black flies and midges). It is organic and totally non-toxic.

Larvae concentrationYou can use mosquito dunks in any standing water that you can’t dump out regularly: a small pond (such as the artificial one pictured here; these larvae leave shadows on the bottom) or stagnant stretch of stream in your yard, or a built-in plant soaking area that no longer drains, etc.

For a small surface area, just break up the dunks in pieces. In any case, reapply every month or so to be sure the Bti is still actively working.

Dunks usually come in packs of 6. If you buy more than one at a time at ACE hardware store in East Bradford (720 W Strasburg Rd., just west of West Chester borough, ask for the Don’t Spray Me! discount.

Just to remind you, we oppose the use of pesticide sprays and SPRAYS HAVE NO EFFECT ON LARVAE (or on eggs, or on pupae, the cocoon-like form that larvae go through before emerging as adults).

For detailed information on Bti, see “Best Natural Mosquito Control: Bti” at mosquitoreviews. Use Bti only on your own property or, with permission, on someone else’s property, but not on public property.

Mosquito dunks

CONTACT & DONATE

We need your help to fight unnecessary chemical toxins and promote healthy food and gardens!

To send a donation to support our activities, mail a check to Don’t Spray Me!, 513 W. Nields St., West Chester PA 19382. If you wish your donation to be tax-deductible, email here for information.

For comments and information overall or about West Chester Borough, email Margaret Hudgings.