“Poisoning Paradise”: new film on pesticides and fighting back

“Poisoning Paradise,” produced by Pierce Brosnan, about pesticides in Hawaii. 7 p.m., Friday November 2, room 101 BPMC, 50 Sharpless St, West Chester, PA 19383. What are your health risks from chemical exposure? Let’s talk about it.

Sponsored by West Chester University, Sierra Club, PennFuture, PennEnvironment, and Don’t Spray Me!

Expert panel, Q&A, activities for children, refreshments, tours of the LEED-certified Business and Public Management Center, community group displays. Brief presentation of 2018 awards by West Goshen supervisor Chris Pielli and SEPA Sierra Club leader Jim Wylie.

Park across Sharpless St. in the public parking garage or in metered spaces on Sharpless or Church St. (on-street parking should be free on this evening; check wording on the meter).

Environmental film series, first Fridays in fall, film at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6:30.

Trailer here.

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Pesticides Putting Pajaro Valley Schools at Risk, Teachers Say

By Georgia Johnson, Good Times, 9/25/18

Fear flourishes amid industry reassurance, conflicting data

When third-grade teacher Melissa Dennis started working at Ohlone Elementary in Watsonville, she pictured her students playing in the adjacent strawberry fields, picking berries and running through rows of strawberries. But the more she talked to other teachers, the more she realized the reality might not be so idyllic.

“I started hearing about teachers in the past who had been organizing against pesticide use,” Dennis said. “I started thinking maybe I should be careful about drinking the water. But I never thought about the air.”

Ohlone Elementary was built right in the middle of farmlands. No one seems to knows why this location was chosen; the fact that surrounding farms use hundreds of gallons of pesticides and fumigants annually would make it seem less than ideal. Scientific findings on the dangers of pesticide exposure are complicated and sometimes confusing, but for residents, teachers, and farmworkers, the proof is in their experience and stories.

“When you read the label on the products, it says ‘these pesticides are toxic for small mammals, insects, frogs, birds,’” Dennis says. “They use thousands of pounds of this stuff all around us. What are human children but small mammals?”

Dennis eventually joined Safe Ag Safe Schools (SASS), a Salinas-based subgroup of Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), with a few other Pajaro Valley Unified teachers who say they have witnessed multiple cases of brain tumors, neurological problems and severe respiratory illness in young children at their schools. Just yards away from many of these schools, tarps stretch across pesticide-treated fields and teachers keep the windows of their classrooms shut….

read more at Good Times

One in four Americans suffer when exposed to common chemicals

ScienceDaily, March 14, 2018

University of Melbourne research reveals that one in four Americans report chemical sensitivity, with nearly half this group medically diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), suffering health problems from exposure to common chemical products and pollutants such as insect spray, paint, cleaning supplies, fragrances and petrochemical fumes.

The research was conducted by Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil Engineering and Chair of Sustainable Cities from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering, and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Professor Steinemann is an international expert on environmental pollutants, air quality, and health effects.

Professor Steinemann found the prevalence of chemical sensitivity has increased more than 200 per cent and diagnosed MCS has increased more than 300 per cent among American adults in the past decade. Across America, an estimated 55 million adults have chemical sensitivity or MCS.

“MCS is a serious and potentially disabling disease that is widespread and increasing in the US population,” Professor Steinemann said.

The study used an online survey with a national random sample of 1,137 people, representative of age, gender and region, from a large web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

The study found that, when exposed to problematic sources, people with MCS experience a range of adverse health effects, from migraines and dizziness to breathing difficulties and heart problems. For 76 per cent of people, the severity of effects can be disabling.

“People with MCS are like human canaries. They react earlier and more severely to chemical pollutants, even at low levels,” Professor Steinemann said.

The study also found that 71 per cent of people with MCS are asthmatic, and 86.2 per cent with MCS report health problems from fragranced consumer products, such as air fresheners, scented laundry products, cleaning supplies, fragranced candles, perfume and personal care products.

In addition, an estimated 22 million Americans with MCS have lost work days or a job in the past year due to illness from exposure to fragranced consumer products in the workplace.

To reduce health risks and costs, Professor Steinemann recommends choosing products without any fragrance, and implementing fragrance-free policies in workplaces, health care facilities, schools and other indoor environments.

Happy Patriots’ Day, West Chester, from the Chesco Health Department

[Subsequent note: spraying did occur in West Chester at the scheduled time, but not at WCU, not on S. High St., and because of rain not in the NE part of the Borough.]

Anyone reading this knows that when the County planned to spray West Chester last month, Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing that spraying.

After some verbal and legal back-and-forths, the County has now scheduled spraying again, now for Tuesday evening 9/11, 7:30-11:30 p.m. The affected areas are in the South and Northeast of the Borough (see maps below), impinging on the downtown area where visitors will, as usual, be circulating and enjoying the Borough’s many amenities such as outdoor dining.

This is late in the season to be spraying, and the hot weather on which mosquitoes thrive has now broken (as of Sept. 8), thus presumably reducing mosquito populations soon in any case.

Download the full press release here: 17_2018_WNV_West Chester Spray. See our post “In case of spraying: Help us / Help yourself” here.

We note some interesting changes of wording in the County press release, which begins:

Mosquito control treatment scheduled for West Chester Borough to prevent West Nile Virus

“Following the contractual guidelines/agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of West Chester Borough on Tuesday, September 11th from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The rain date for this event is Wednesday, September 12th from 7:30 pm to 11:30pm. The treatment is occurring because of the extremely high level of mosquito samples in areas of the Borough that have tested positive for West Nile Virus. Maps of the area being sprayed are below.

“The Chester County Health Department monitors the presence of mosquitos infected with West Nile Virus and utilizes strategies to prevent and control mosquito larvae. Despite such measures being undertaken in West Chester Borough, numerous mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus which require mosquito control treatment spray to reduce the risk of transmission. …”

What’s new there from previous wordings (compare to the wording for the release regarding the Sept. 5 spraying of Phoenixville)?

For the first time, the text starts with the phrase “Following the contractual guidelines/agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection…

This wording is clearly designed to silence the Borough. We have never heard of or seen such a “contractual guidelines/agreement” before. What does, in fact, “contractual guidelines/agreement” mean? Is it a legal contract between the County and the State? Signed by whom and when?

Also note that the expression “which require mosquito control treatment spray” has also crept in. Nothing “requires” spraying; it is a decision made by human beings.

Nothing we have ever heard before suggests that the State obliges the County to spray. We have always understood that the State merely supplies information and guidance but the County makes the decision whether and when to spray. Many counties do not spray and have no mosquito control program at all. No one “requires” them to spray.

And Vector Index levels — to which the public no longer has timely access, since the site that used to have them has not been updated since July 30, and which appear to us scientifically dubious — vary so widely when used to justify spraying that it is clear that spraying is a matter of discretion, not science. Whose discretion? — that is the question.

Now, suddenly we are confronted with a new example of “state preemption,” recalling the claim that municipalities (and presumably the County as well) have no right to put any conditions on the siting, construction, or operation of gas and other pipelines.

In our view, this new example of state preemption runs totally counter to West Chester Borough’s Home Rule Charter as amended with the Community Bill of Rights (section 904) approved by Borough voters in 2015, and notably (A6):

“Right to Clean Air. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to breathe air untainted by toxins, carcinogens, particulates, and other substances known to cause harm to health.”

Also for the first time, the County press release does not claim to spray only “After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies….” There we certainly agree: the County has indeed not been “exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies.” In fact, they can’t even tell us where they have larvicided to kill larvae, the chief non-toxic and most effective means of mosquito control.

Instead, the release says: “The Chester County Health Department monitors the presence of mosquitos infected with West Nile Virus and utilizes strategies to prevent and control mosquito larvae.” Of course, we’d like to see more of those strategies. “Kill mosquitos in the water, not in the air!”

The release does not make another change that we have often suggested, in its claim that spraying can “prevent West Nile Virus.” One cannot “prevent” a virus or (in the paragraph just above) “prevent” larvae. One can set out to reduce the number of mosquito or larvae or to reduce the likelihood of disease, but one cannot “prevent” them.

As usual, the release uses euphemisms like “treatment” and avoids the terms “insecticide” and (until the boilerplate language at the end of the release about the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program ) “pesticide.”

These are not semantic quibbles. Like the scientific and procedural claims that often come from the pesticide industry itself and that we have often criticized, these choices of words tend to mislead the public and office-holders into thinking that spraying is a helpful and healthful “treatment.”

See maps of planned spray areas below. These are the same as planned last month, as it happens. We can’t compare to any evolution in “Vector Index” scores, because those are not longer available to the public. To line up the maps (which are on different scales), look for High St. running N and S (tilting some to the left) in both maps or for Fugett Park, the spot of green below the top map and above the bottom map. In the downtown area, Gay St. and much of Market are not on the direct spray route, but the 200 block of E. Market is. And, naturally, spray drifts; if it didn’t drift, it would stay on the streets where the spray truck passes, and the whole point of the exercise is to spread the pesticide around in people’s yards.

NE West Chester:

Southern West Chester:

DeltaGard, deltamethrin

In the past, Chester County has sprayed pyrethrin in an effort to attack mosquitoes. No chemical pesticide is selective; a poison that kills adult mosquitoes will inevitably affect other forms of life. (Biological agents such as larvicides are much more selective.)

Now the County seems to have gone over to another member of the pyrethroid chemical group, DeltaGard, whose active ingredient is deltamethrin.

The information below is mainly about the DeltaGard variant for use in gardens and landscaping, which has the same active ingredient as the DeltaGard insecticide used against mosquitoes. For more on the mosquito spray, see here.

What’s deltamethrin? Of course, the industry doesn’t think it’s dangerous. Some other sources beg to differ. A relatively recent post in Chemicals.News (no friend to the chemical industry) says:

“Deltamethrin — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts”

12/05/2017 / By Rita Winters

Deltamethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that is registered for use in commercial, agricultural, and residential areas. It plays a role in controlling malaria and targets other insects like cockroaches, spiders, ants, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, bird mites, house flies, and beetles. Deltamethrin products are one of the most popular and widely used pesticides in the world and are very popular with government pest control operations in the country. It is highly toxic to the environment, especially to aquatic life forms like fish and crustaceans. Deltamethrin is also known to be toxic to humans. As a neurotoxin, it attacks the nervous system and causes a variety of negative side effects and fatality. In 2011, a Japanese woman ingested large doses of pesticides that contained deltamethrin, which resulted in motor neuron death.

This chemical compound acts by blocking the closure of the ion gates of sodium channels during repolarization. It then disrupts the transmission of nerve-related impulses causing depolarization of the nerve cell membranes. It is very effective on insects, especially those considered as pests. However, it also affects beneficial insects including honey bees….

read more at Chemicals.News

According to the National Pesticide Information Center: “While children may be especially sensitive to pesticides compared to adults, it is currently unknown whether children have increased sensitivity specifically to deltamethrin….” (Parents will not wish to experiment to find out.)

Also: “When deltamethrin gets in the soil, it has a tendency to bind tightly to soil particles. It has a half-life ranging from 5.7- 209 days. Half-life is the measure of time it takes for half of the applied amount to break down…. Deltamethrin has a half-life of 5.9-17 days on plant surfaces. It is unlikely to be taken up by plants, since it binds to soil particles so tightly….” (So that could be reassuring if you are out for a walk in the street, but not so much if you’d like to consume your own organic produce or turn over your garden knowing that may have pesticide residue in it for up to 7 months.)

“NPIC provides objective, science-based information about pesticides and pesticide-related topics to enable people to make informed decisions. NPIC is a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” Download the pdf of its deltamethrin report here: Deltamethrin General Fact Sheet

See some other sources at these sites:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28551743/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22079160/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4502505/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257607/#!po=76.0417
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/29444244/

Deltamethrin molecule
The manufacturer’s label (download here: deltagard-5sc-label ornamental) contains an immense list of insects as well as spiders that DeltaGard kills when used on lawns and landscaping. The list includes ants, caterpillars, crickets and grasshoppers, among others that most of us might not see as pests but as important members of the environment; and many of the target species are important food sources for birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

And that is just for the supposed pests. Of course they don’t list the other species than can be killed, such as adult butterflies and dragonflies.

And the label says, not reassuringly for those of us with home gardens:

“DO NOT apply this product to edible crops.”

If you want further non-reassurance, download the manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet relevant to mosquito spraying here: DeltaGard_Insecticide, including statements such as:

“This product contains material which are Trade Secret and may have Occupational Exposure Limits.”

“Do not allow to get into surface water, drains and ground water.”

Phoenixville and Schuylkill the next to be sprayed

Chester County press release:

West Chester, PA – The Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of Phoenixville Borough and Schuylkill Township (see maps below). The treatment is scheduled for Wednesday, September 5th from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. The rain date for this event is Thursday, September 6th from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm….

Read the full release at the above site.

This planned spraying with the pesticide deltamethrin involves big chunks (see maps online) of densely populated neighborhoods. (Isn’t it odd how the press release text finds euphemisms so as not to use the term “pesticide,” which occurs only in the EPA-related statement at the very end?)

As mentioned in “Mosquito spraying and public information,” the public and their elected representatives can’t find the underlying data online because the usual sites have not been updated recently. “Just trust us”?

On the futility of this kind of spraying, see “Why don’t they just spray and kill all the mosquitoes?

If you are in one of the spray areas, please see “In case of spraying: Help us / Help yourself.” You should protect yourself and y our family, but also your observations can help us catalogue the conditions and effects of spraying.

Voter Bayer… for Corporate Hall of Shame

Corporate Accountability International is asking people to vote for the “Corporate Hall of Shame.”

Our first choice: pesticide industry giant Bayer, about to merge with agrochemical giant Monsanto.

Bayer is a top manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are a key factor in beekeepers losing nearly 50% of their hives this year.

Bayer also happens to manufacture both Permanone and DeltaGard, the 2 anti-mosquito pesticides sprayed recently by the Chester County Department of Health.

You can vote for 3 “candidates” here. There are plenty of other worthy choices for the honor as well.

“Why don’t they just spray and kill all the mosquitoes?”

Yes, people may wonder: “Why don’t they just spray and kill all the mosquitoes?”

First, it’s impossible to kill all the mosquitoes. Any spraying, including from a truck as done by the County, kills only the portion of mosquitoes that happen to be flying around at the time and encounter toxic droplets. We have seen figures of up to an 80% kill rate (yes, this is a serious poison) but no really authoritative figure.

But suppose 20+% of adult mosquitoes survive (and any out of the spray zone, sheltered at the time in thick foliage, or in inaccessible areas like inside bulkheads or hollow trees, will not be affected). The females, at least, will be happily flying around the next day biting people and laying eggs as usual.

The hundreds of eggs that each female lays in stagnant water are affected by spray. Those eggs will become larvae, pupae, and adults, all within a week in hot weather like now.

And current larvae and pupae will not be affected by spray either.

And not all mosquitoes are created equal. Specifications require that spraying occur only in the evening, when honeybees are less active. Disaster for bees ensues if spraying occurs at other times.

Our home-grown mosquitoes, the ones that at least give us an auditory warning hum as they circle us looking for bare skin, tend to be active in the evening; however, the recently established “Asian Tiger” mosquitoes, the silent biters, tend to be active during the day and therefore are not much affected by spraying. Killing off some of the “regular” mosquitoes probably just opens the airways to more Asian Tigers.

Furthermore, anti-mosquito spray actually kills mosquito-eaters like dragonflies and toads, to say nothing of insects that we enjoy seeing or that are important to ecological balance like butterflies.

The County Health Department does not spray for the comfort of people who wish to be outside without the recommended bug repellents, long sleeves, and long pants. People outside need to weigh those nuisances against the nuisance of being bitten. The Health Department is not the Department of Outdoor Living.

Finally, proper public policy is to spray only, in the words of the Chesco Health Department, “after exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies.”

The prime non-toxic mosquito control strategy is larviciding suspect standing water. Individuals can larvicide on their own property but not on public property. We are glad to say that the Borough of West Chester is taking steps for two employees to receive the relatively simple licensing to do that, and we hope other municipalities will do the same.

Currently, the County does the larviciding but obviously needs to be informed where the problem areas are in such a large county. In West Chester, our Adopt A Drain program is clearing drain grills of plastics and other detritus and informing the Borough of drains that need cleaning below grill level or larvicing where they are holding standing water.

Example, as of Aug. 30, 2018: the storm drain at the NE corner of E. Nields and S. Matlack streets. If you check it out, you’ll see a water reflection at the bottom. After the dry last week in August, this drain could already have released swarms of adult mosquitoes to the neighborhood. In dry weather, mosquitoes could also be breeding in stagnant areas of Goose Creek and Plum Run, including water backing up in drainage pipes entering the stream. (Water samples are needed to check it out.)

If residents anywhere are aware of storm drains with standing water, they should inform their municipality. And of course, we should all patrol our own property, even for something as small as a bowl holding water under a potted plant, and put in a helpful word to neighbors who may not be addressing the issue. For some egregious “Case studies in what to avoid,” see here.

Pesticide ban is failing to protect suburban bee populations

[This article shows how truly dangerous such pesticides are to sensitive species and even to the future of flowering plants. In the European Union, even after a ban on farming use of neonicotinoids, bees remain under threat from home use. How much greater the peril in the US, where the pesticide lobby and its political agents keep the pesticides flowing freely!]

by Brendan Montague, Ecologist, 25th July 2018

Bees living in suburban habitats are still being exposed to significant levels of pesticides despite the EU ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, new research from University of Sussex scientists shows.

While the introduction of new EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid chemicals five years ago has reduced exposure of bees living in farmland, the study found that overall more than half of all pollen and nectar samples collected from bee nests in Sussex, Hertfordshire and Scotland between 2013 and 2015 were contaminated.

The study is the first of its kind to highlight the risk to bees in urban areas posed by garden use of pesticides.

Bee-attractive

The scientists at the University of Sussex are urging gardeners to ditch their bug sprays immediately in favour of encouraging natural predators such as ladybirds or lacewings, and the use of physical methods such as hand-removal of pests, and netting or sticky traps.

Dr Beth Nicholls, postdoctoral research fellow in evolution, behaviour and environment at the University of Sussex and the study’s lead author, said: “Our findings suggest that the EU’s recent decision to extend the neonicotinoid moratorium to include all field crops is likely to have a positive effect on bees, relieving some of the stress on our already struggling pollinator populations.

“However, given that bees in suburban gardens appear to remain at risk post-moratorium, further work is needed to understand the sources of neonicotinoid exposure in these areas and to find ways to reduce it.

“Our study indicates that limiting the public sale and use of neonicotinoid-based bug sprays, which are currently unaffected by the moratorium, is needed if we are to protect bee populations living in and around our towns and cities.”…

read more at Ecologist

Some basics

We in Don’t Spray Me! are in favor of scientific knowledge.

We would like public officials to share more background information with the public.

We find it disrespectful of taxpayers and residents when public employees do not reveal information that they should have, even when we file Right To Know requests as specified by state law.

How does the Health Department decide when and where to spray pesticides on private and public spaces?

How does it implement its promise of “exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies” before spraying?

Where has the County been applying larvicide (the most effective means of mosquito control)?

The short answer we keep getting is: no answer. But we will get answers, because we believe in an informed public active in asserting its rights against policies whose own implementers cannot or do not care to justify them.

In case you are wondering: spell “larvicide” or “larvacide,” “mosquitoes” or “mosquitos.”

“Spraying” refers to an air-borne mist, spread by trucks in streets in the case of mosquito control in inhabited areas, that kills adult insects (not eggs, larvae, or pupae) that happen to fly into its droplets and can harm others like amphibians, fish, and cats.

“Larviciding” involves dropping in standing water a biological agent that kills mosquito larvae right where they are growing; larvicide is harmless to people and other organisms (except another pest insect species).

Don’t Spray Me! wants more larviciding and less spraying!