Notes against spraying Bifenthrin

by Alexa Manning at West Chester Green Team rally, June 12, 2021 (for prospective spray locations, see here)

Recently, it has come to our attention that the PA Dept of Agriculture plans to spray the active ingredient Bifenthrin (product name Talstar Professional Insecticide) for the spotted lantern fly (SLF) on thirteen locations in Chester County.

Bifenthrin is a broad-spectrum pyrethroid insecticide that kills insects indiscriminately, including beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators. This pesticide was registered for use by the EPA in 1985, is in more than 600 products in the U.S. and is classified by the EPA as a possible carcinogen. It interferes with the nervous system of insects that eat it, touch it, or breathe it in. Bifenthrin binds to the soil and has the potential to contaminate surface waters through runoff. It is highly toxic to insects and aquatic organisms such as fish and arthropods. Though toxicity is lower to birds and mammals exposed directly to it, there are potential risks if they eat aquatic organisms because bifenthrin can accumulate in fish and last a long time in the environment.

Information provided to us from the PA Dept of Ag states that they and the USDA continue to support research into biological and other control methods for the SLF. They follow the principles of integrated pest management (IPM) using cultural, mechanical, biologic and targeted chemical treatment techniques available including implementing a quarantine to limit SLF spread, the use of traps, reduction of the favorite host Tree of Heaven, and application of a systemic insecticide to it. These efforts have slowed the spread of the SLF since it was discovered in Berks County in 2014; however, since then the SLF range has expanded significantly.

The decision was made to add this new contact spray into the IPM program this year. Spraying will occur between June and October on properties exhibiting a high risk of enabling long-distance spread of the insect and tend to be on habitats that are highly degraded such as near rail hubs, airports, and industrial centers, with the permission of the property owner/land manager. No set treatment dates are established yet. People listed on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and beekeepers will be notified in advance of spraying.

With the assistance of state representatives and their staff we are waiting to obtain more information from the Dept of Ag about the following questions about this spraying program.

• How far in advance will individuals on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity registry be notified? Will the public be notified in advance?

• What is the notification process and responsibilities of local, county, and state government and private property owners to the public regarding the spraying schedule in advance, at the time, and afterwards?

• Will public signs be posted and what are the other ways notification will take place?

• Who is paying for the spraying?

• Where and how were these specific locations identified and decided upon?

• Where else in PA is the spraying program happening?

• Is there a public comment period?

• What is the current research that states that a pesticide (and this specific one) will be effective in stopping the spread of SLF? If so, where and when did the research and any trials take place?

• If the spraying is targeted to specific locations, how will the effects be monitored and analyzed and for what length of time?

• Have the public and environmental health effects of spraying bifenthrin as well any other pesticides been documented and reported?

• In municipal locations, are schools and public property such as parks and open space affected? Which municipalities have approved this spraying?

These are some of the questions that need to be addressed by the government. Other concerns are welcome.

I would like to share that I am listed on the PA Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry for health reasons. The law requires the people on the registry are to be notified by government and private entities of pesticide applications within 500 feet of one’s property at least one day in advance. In April 2020 we had the unfortunate experience when our entire property (we don’t use pesticides or fertilizers and grown organic plants for food and pollinators) was broadcast sprayed with a chemical mixture of pesticides and fertilizers by a chemical lawn service company. The employee who sprayed did not check the address and did not confirm with the customer next door where this service was contracted. I was not notified by the company in advance of the next-door neighbor’s spraying. Any of these measures could have prevented this from happening.

After I contacted the company and the Dept of Ag, the region Field Pesticide officer contacted me and investigated this incident. We received compensation from the company to rebuild vegetable raised beds, and some of the impacted treated soil in our pollinator gardens. There is the concern that there is pesticide residue in the soil. We would like to have a yard where what we grow and eat is healthy and safe. I hope this never happens again.

Since March, I have received 40 notifications from several chemical lawn treatment companies that regularly service residential properties near us. Unfortunately, there are other companies who have not notified me as is required by law. Then I follow up with them and the Dept of Ag.

Another concern is that companies who apply pesticides are not required by the state to post a sign that an area has been treated. This is only a courtesy. There are many times that I have walked near or on a border of a property that was recently sprayed as was the case when I walked across our front lawn the day we were sprayed in error. This is concerning for everyone, especially people on the registry, children and pets on public parks and private properties. This is the least that we can do: signs need to be posted on public property in advance with the time of application, the name of the pesticide and/or fertilizer, and when it is safe to go on the area.

Pennsylvania needs to allow local and country governments the right to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations to ban or restrict the use of pesticides and fertilizers. State preemption is antithetical to local rule and denies citizens their rights for the public good. This applies to many other issues.

These issues need to be addressed. Please contact your state representatives and the PA Dept of Agriculture now for answers to concerns about SLF spraying, notifications and related issues that prevent local and county governments from making direct decisions.

There are many harmful environmental and health concerns regarding the ubiquitous use of pesticides and fertilizers on land, air, and water in residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial locations. Since the 1950s their use is widespread and commonplace with tremendous ramifications to our health and safety. There are safe, proven alternatives and many resources available. This is a critical environmental issue that affects all of us. We need to take appropriate actions to protect our health and safety. Thank you for concern and for your advocacy.

Q&A: What can we do to reduce the mosquito population?

Updated May 9, 2021. Short version: dump standing water; larvicide water that can’t be dumped.

Here is the enemy: larvae

But that photo shows mosquito larvae, which don’t bite.

Right, but once larvae hatch, they are harder to control. One female mosquito, with a protein infusion from blood, lays 100+ eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, which fly away as adults in a few days. Continue reading

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….