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.

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and Application

Public and commercial spray operators are required to give advance notice of spraying to registered individuals, who can then take defensive measures like closing windows and turning off outdoor air feeds, or else try to leave town at the time of the spraying.

To be precise, “pesticide businesses are required to make notifications to you 12 to 72 hours in advance of any pesticide application to an attached structure or an outdoor above ground application that they may make within 500 feet of any location that you have listed in the Registry.”

Unfortunately, we have learned that certain unscrupulous or unqualified spray companies have failed to give the required notification or even sprayed the wrong property. If anything like this happens to you, please contact us so that we can try to help.

In addition, the Chester County Health Department has, at times, granted registered hypersensitive individuals an exclusion zone around their residence to spare them from chemical exposure. However, that exclusion zone may not be large enough to have an effect.

If you feel you qualify, to register you can download the form here: Pesticide Hypersensitivity Application Form(2020). Then print and fill it out, request a physician’s signed approval, and submit it. It is really up to the physician; the state and county have no input. All of us are potentially affected by toxic chemicals, some of us more than others. If you have any doubts, please talk to your doctor.

Further background info at Penn State Extension includes:

“The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) maintains a registry of individuals hypersensitive to pesticides. It is a listing of locations for people who have been verified by a physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. These hypersensitive individuals may request to have listings of their home, place of employment, school (if a student), and vacation home placed in the Registry. A person will not be considered included in the Registry unless their name appears in the current published Registry.”

Note that you can register not just your home address but up to 4 locations that you yourself may frequent, such as work place, school, or second home.

If you have children in school, be aware that a separate state law grants a higher degree of notification to public schools than to private or religious schools or day cares. The PA School Code requires notification of families and employees of public schools (but not all schools) before spraying occurs. For more on that lack of equity, see here.

Chester County Environment Alliance meeting Sept. 14

Last month, Don’t Spray Me! met productively for 2.5 hours with our environmental friends in the Chester County Environment Alliance (CCEA), an umbrella organization formed with almost 30 of Chester County’s local environmental organizations–and still growing!

“Like” the CCEA public Facebook page to stay up to date on local meetings, other groups you might find of interest, and upcoming events like the Clean Energy Open House Tour on October 19.

The Chester County Environment Alliance brings the representatives of its groups together three times a year to discuss the issues affecting our environment, help each other amplify our messages, coordinate events and campaigns, and use our resources jointly to help our shared mission to preserve and protect our environment and encourage sustainable choices in everyday life.

Please spread the word about this growing initiative as we work together with our friends and neighbors to preserve our environment on so many worthy fronts.

Find out more about the CCEA and its member groups and fellow environmentalists here, including the Chester County environmental calendar.

Where’s the Chesco Health Dept. when people really need it?

According to Chester County Coroner Dr. Christina VandePol (download the Aug. 2 press release here),

The Chester County Coroner’s Office is releasing data on drug overdose deaths in Chester County from January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019. A total of 65 people have been confirmed to have died of a drug overdose during this period, with 62 deaths determined to be accidental and 3 due to suicide. …

Something seems amiss in how the County organizes its services! The Health Department does not deal with this major health epidemic, but when you look at the Health Department home page you find under “Environmental Services”:

New Fees for Food and other Establishments (Effective May 1st, 2019)
Housing, Insect, and Vector Concerns
Spotted Lanternfly Information
Public Bathing Places
Emergency Action Plan for Food Establishments
Healthy Stream Recreation
Farmers’ Market Guidelines
Temporary Event Application
Food Establishments
Sewage and Water
Request Existing Sewage/Well Permit

What does the spotted lanternfly have to do with human health? Why does the Health Department spend $200,000+ a year on mosquito control when the chief mosquito-related health problem it cites, West Nile Virus, has never caused one fatal case acquired in Chester County, compared to thousands of fatal opioid overdoses?

In the Health Department’s “A-Z Health Topic List,” you can find bats and dog licenses, and even Zika Virus (which is not transmitted by insects this far north), but no link to information about an epidemic that is killing an average of 2.5 people a week in Chester County! (You’d think Drug and Alcohol Services would feature itt, but good luck finding even one reference to fentanyl there.)

Why doesn’t the County have an Environment Department, with trained experts in environment and sustainability, to deal with concerns like over-proliferation of some species and existential threats to others, climate change, excessive water runoff, stream erosion, air and water pollution, environmental degradation from trash and especially single-use plastics, renewable energy, and so much more?

Then the Health Department could focus on its job: health.

DSM and CCEA

DSM had a productive weekend with of our environmental friends in the Chester County Environment Alliance. CCEA is an alliance of 29 locally active environmental organizations.

CCEA meets at least quarterly to discuss issues affecting our environment, help each other’s groups amplify our messages, coordinate events and campaigns, and use our resources jointly to help our shared mission to preserve and protect our environment.

At our May 4 meeting, we recapped the successful Earth Day Festival at Kerr Park in Downingtown and talked about next steps moving forward.

We’re excited to keep working together, and we look forward to connecting with local Chester County Environmental and Sustainability Advisory Councils in the coming months.

Find out more about the Chester County Environment Alliance and its member groups at www.chescoenvt.org/.

What’s the big public health crisis here? (update)

Number of deaths in Chester County, 2015-18 to date:

from West Nile Virus: 0.

from flu (data for those years from PA Department of Health and Philly Voice): 34 (extrapolating from 221 + 64 + 149 + 156 + 256 in PA X 520,000 approx. County population / 12,825,000 approx. PA population) (more than 80,000 Americans died from flu in the 2017-18 season; flu deaths tend to start in October)

from homicides and suicides: 7 + 52 = 59, per Chesco Coroner

from drug overdoses according to OverdoseFreePA: 415. (In the US: more than 72,000 deaths in 2017.)

Opioid deaths in Chesco and PA are rising dramatically while WNV deaths have averaged under 2 a year in the entire state, according to CDC (one so far in 2018).

Could the Health Department use its mosquito control funding more beneficially to reduce actual causes of death in the County?

Could the Chesco Department of Drug and Alcohol Services, which deals with opioid issues, put to good use the public resources that the Health Department is using to track and spray for mosquitoes?

The latest drug scourge, the herbal supplement kratom, has killed two Chesco residents this year, in April and June. Searching the County web site turns up only a 8/20/18 press release from the Coroner’s Office (which provoked attention in the media) and a couple of presentations for professionals.

Why does the County give little public attention to a drug that has killed 2 this year, compared to a flurry of spraying and press releases concerning West Nile Virus, which has killed just one person in Chester County in 2001-18? (And that one fatal WNV infection since WNV was first recorded here, in an elderly man, was acquired out of state.)

Is the County allocating taxpayers’ resources in the optimal way to support human health, safety, and well-being?

Not to mention warning Chester County residents about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides….

The “contractual guidelines/agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection”

That is the phrase used for the first time we can recall in the County release about the spraying of West Chester schedule for this 9/11 evening (unless rain intervenes). For the full document, see “Happy Patriots’ Day, West Chester, from the Chesco Health Department.”

Now we are in possession of the document that must be at the origin of that phrase. Download it here: DEP DH contract for 2018. It’s basically an application to the PA DEP for a maximum of $102,680.40 to aid in anti-mosquito spraying in 2018. (That’s just a portion of the total expense, of course.)

Pages 1-22 are standard bureaucratic stuff. The interesting part comes on pp. 23-25 of the pdf: “2018 Addenda – Scope of Work.” The underlined paragraphs are the actual County submission for the state money.

So the Health Dept wrote its own ticket, telling the State what it wanted to do, the State said OK, and now the County is saying it has to abide by its contract with the state… which it wrote! Circular reasoning, anyone? And still, nothing there says when the County has to spray.

We need to dig deeper, but at this point it is hard to find evidence that the County has lived up to its stated intentions regarding public education, outreach to municipalities, and larviciding. We need to go the Right To Know route, since the information flow to the public has been cut off.

The only positive in the document is that the County commits to 48 hours notice (previously 24). They do not commit to skipping homes of hypersensitive individuals but in the last couple of years they have provided a small buffer around registered hypersensitives and registered apiarists.

Is there another “contractual guidelines/agreement”? We’ll find out.