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….

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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:

Mosquito spraying and public information

(Reference are current as of 8/29/18; of course, we are hoping that the state and County sites linked below will soon be updated so that we will have more data to study and share)

Don’t Spray Me! wishes to work factually and democratically to convey our negative view of pesticide spraying. We believe that the different levels of government should in turn work openly with citizens and taxpayers.

In its press releases about pesticide spraying, the Chester County Health Department says that it sprays “after exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies.” To us, this would mean at a minimum:

1) Reaching out to the County’s 73 municipalities to help them educate their residents about mosquito control, and to suggest the many precautions that residents should take in the regrettable case of airborne pesticide actually being disseminated in their community.

West Chester Borough and its citizens have dialogued exhaustively with the County Health Department and have taken on some of the needed education and outreach roles. We do not know that that has happened anywhere else in the County, except to some degree in East Bradford.

2) Larviciding (or helping municipalities to larvicide) pools of water and storm drains as needed to prevent the development of larvae from mosquito eggs there. This is the primary non-toxic mosquito control strategy.

DSM has had to file a Right To Know request with the PA Dept of Health asking when and where the County has conducted larviciding in West Chester Borough. The Health Department has said it either does not have records (2015-17) or does not have time (2018) to find out and has encouraged us to ask the State.

Furthermore, the County informs us of the general location of traps when it wishes to share high Vector Index readings or wishes to spray but not as a matter of course. Thus of the 31 mosquito traps set in the Borough, we have a general idea of where just 7* are. Therefore, we have no way to understand what role the readings from the other 26 traps played in the recent plan to spray much of the Borough — which Borough Council unanimously opposed (and which has not occurred).

According to the PA West Nile site, spraying has been conducted this year in 27 of the state’s 67 counties (as of Aug. 14; the chart is outdated). So are those 27 the only counties with supposedly high levels of risk for West Nile virus?

Not at all! According to “Recent West Nile Hot Zones in Pennsylvania in 2018” (also as of 8/14), 29 counties are described as: “There is no active county surveillance program in this county. DEP biologists do perform minimal surveillance in this county.” Of those 29 counties, 10 are said to be at “high risk” for WNV but they have not been sprayed. If WNV is such a crisis that in Chester County environmental and human health must be risked to broadcast pesticides in our communities, why do those 29 counties and especially the 10 “high risk” counties escape the same level of “treatment”?

The County justifies spraying on the basis of Vector Index scores. Although the math behind those numbers appears impenetrable to our statistician, the Vector Index level at which the County sprays municipalities varies widely, and some municipalities that have not been sprayed have higher Vector Indexes (per the information available online) than others that have been sprayed. How can there be such a discrepancy if the Vector Index is a reliable scientific tool?

And is it reasonable to think that WNV stops at municipal boundaries? Almost all of the County’s 24 untested municipalities are adjacent to municipalities with testing. For example, Parkesburg Borough (1.2 square miles) was sprayed on Aug. 9, but (as of 7/30/18) none of the 3 much larger adjacent municipalities was even being tested. Mosquitoes do know how to fly, and so do crows, the chief reservoir of the virus. But since almost no humans ever are aware of contracting the virus, what’s the big fuss anyhow?

If you wish to check the Vector Index for Chesco municipalities, see here. However, good luck in finding the levels for this month, as the posting stops as of 7/30/18. Since the County uses a 3-week window to justify spraying, that means that the public and elected officials have no online information to show any data that might underlie any recent spraying on the municipal level, nor any information either on the location of actual traps.

Citizens and their elected representative are being denied the information and data they need to form educated opinions in this important matter of environmental and human health (and the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars being spent).

*8/30 just updated from 5 to 7 traps whose general locations we know in West Chester Borough, as we found out 2 more, in all:

• Greenfield Park
• College Avenue Pump Station (700 block of College Ave.)
• Everhart Park
• Kathy McBratnie Park
• Marshall Square Park
• 100 Block Magnolia Street
• 500 Block of East Miner Street

N.b. So 24 to go! Even if we knew precise trap locations, we wouldn’t publish them, because the Health Department fears interference with their traps and we don’t want to be blamed if there is any. And we do believe in valid data, when we can get it. Please note that where mosquitoes are trapped is not necessarily where they breed or spend most of their time.

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

[Note: we have often wondered how a pesticide can “prevent” a virus when it can’t even “prevent” mosquitoes. Note on the active ingredient deltamethrin from Wikipedia: “Resistance has been characterised in several insects, including important vectors of malaria like the mosquito Anopheles gambiae as well as non-disease carrying pests like bed bugs.” That is one of the problems with any pesticide: insects can become resistant to anything! Because of acquired resistance, Permanone (previously used in Chesco) could not be used in Miami during the recent Zika scare. If you live in the spray area, see how you can help us here.]

from Chesco Health Department pdf

West Chester, PA – The Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of Parkesburg (see map below). The treatment is scheduled for Thursday, August 9th from 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm. The rain date for this event is Monday, August 13th from 8:00pm to 11:30pm.

The Chester County Health Department conducts mosquito control treatment in areas with high levels of mosquito activity and where multiple mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies, spraying is conducted to reduce residents’ risk of WNV infection. Anyone living in an area where mosquitoes are infected with WNV is at risk, but the risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities. Less than 1% of people infected will develop serious illness. While serious illness can occur in people of any age, people over 60 years of age, people who have received organ transplants, and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease are at the greatest risk for serious illness.

The Chester County Health Department uses a truck-mounted sprayer to apply .66 ounces of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product (DeltaGard) per acre of land….

read more in the Chesco Health Department pdf

Mosquito control treatment scheduled for Spring City Borough to prevent West Nile Virus

release from Chesco Health Dept., 7/30/18

West Chester, PA – The Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of Spring City Borough (see maps below). The treatment is scheduled for Wednesday, August 1st from 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm. The rain date for this event is Monday, August 6th from 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm.

The Chester County Health Department conducts mosquito control treatment in areas with high levels of mosquito activity and where multiple mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies, spraying is conducted to reduce residents’ risk of WNV infection. Anyone living in an area where mosquitoes are infected with WNV is at risk, but the risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities. Less than 1% of people infected will develop serious illness. While serious illness can occur in people of any age, people over 60 years of age, people who have received organ transplants, and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease are at the greatest risk for serious illness.

The Chester County Health Department uses a truck-mounted sprayer to apply .66 ounces of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product (DeltaGard) per acre of land…

text continues as usual; see here

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and Application

Public and commercial spray operators are required to give advance notice of spraying to registered individuals. In addition, the Chester County Health Department grants registered hypersensitive individuals an exclusion zone around their residence to spare them from chemical exposure.

If you feel you qualify, to register you can download the form here: Pesticide Hypersensitivity Application Form(2). Then print and fill it out, get a physician’s signed approval, and submit it.

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.

Trump’s EPA could allow teenage workers to handle dangerous pesticides

by Doris Cellarius, Sierra Club Grassroots Network, 1/11/18, from Huffington Post. See both sites for links to more info.

If the Environmental Protection Agency follows through with a reform now under consideration, teenage farmworkers and other working minors would once again be allowed to handle dangerous pesticides while on the job.

The EPA is now reevaluating a 2015 rule that tightened safety standards for farmworkers. In particular, the agency is considering changing or scrapping the requirement that anyone working with pesticides in agriculture be at least 18 years old.

Doctors had called for those restrictions to be put in place because pesticides can increase the risk of cancer or impact brain development in children.

The EPA may also tweak or do away with the age requirements of another recent rule, which spells out who can be certified to be an applicator of the chemicals that the EPA classifies as the most toxic. That could make it legal for minors to work with what are known as “restricted-use” pesticides, like arsenic and methyl bromide, in a host of industries beyond just agriculture, such as landscaping and pest control.

Restricted-use pesticides are not sold to the public for general use because of how dangerous they can be to people and the environment.

Birmingham and Thornbury get 48-hour warning

[DSM note: This is not what we want to happen. This large residential area on both sides of route 202 in 2 townships contains many dwellings and several bodies of water and streams. Anyone in the area, please try to observe and let us know:

• Are adequate warning posted well in advance so residents and visitors will know to stay out of the way of the spray and take protective measures?
• Did you observe people who were not aware of the recommended precautions?
• Is there a vehicle with a loud speaker in front of the spray truck warning people to stay indoors or leave the vicinity?
• Does the truck spray more than once in any street or on any area?
• Is the spray shut off as the truck approaches a stream or body of water and if so, how many feet away?
• After spraying, what difference do you notice in the number of mosquitoes and other insects such as honey bees and dragonflies?
• Did you notice any effect, either immediate or after a few days, on children, cats, frogs, birds, or bats?
• How long does it take for the adult mosquito population to get back to about what it was before?]

Mosquito control treatment scheduled for Birmingham and Thornbury Townships

News release from Chester County Health Department, 8/8/17, 4:30 p.m.

The Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of Birmingham and Thornbury Townships (map of treatment area). The treatment is scheduled for Thursday, August 10th from 7:45 pm to 11:00 pm. The rain date for this event is Tuesday, August 15th from 7:45 pm to 11:00 pm.

The Chester County Health Department conducts mosquito control treatment in areas with high levels of mosquito activity and where multiple mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies, spraying is conducted to reduce residents’ risk of WNV infection. Anyone living in an area where mosquitoes are infected with WNV is at risk, but the risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities. Less than 1% of people infected will develop serious illness. While serious illness can occur in people of any age, people over 60 years of age, people who have received organ transplants, and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease are at the greatest risk for serious illness.

The Chester County Health Department uses a truck-mounted sprayer to apply 1.5 ounces of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product (Permanone) per acre of land. The mosquito control spray becomes inactive in just a few hours or with sunshine. Sprays are conducted after sunset, when mosquitoes are most active and bees have returned to their hives. Sprayers are turned off near bodies of water and apiaries to protect aquatic life and bees. The Chester County Health Department also notifies registered beekeepers and residents who are listed as hypersensitive in a designated spray area prior to conducting a spray. People who are concerned about exposure to mosquito control products can reduce their potential for exposure by staying indoors with children and pets when their neighborhood is being sprayed. If you would like to take extra precautions after the spray is completed, you can rinse off outdoor furniture or playground equipment before use.

Although spraying helps to reduce mosquito populations, the Chester County Health Department encourages residents to “Make You and Your Home a Bite-Free Zone” to prevent WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases. Because mosquito-borne diseases are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, residents can reduce their risk by using insect repellent and other personal protection and getting rid of standing water on their property….

read more for general advice at Chester County Health Department

If you are in the purple area on the downloaded map below, the plan is to spray you on Aug. 10 (the same area was sprayed on Sept. 12, 2016):

Chester County Health Department WNV releases, summer 2016

“Mosquito control treatment scheduled for East Coventry Township
to control nuisance mosquitoes.” released dated 6/13/16. Spraying was scheduled for June 15 from 8:30 pm to 10:30 p.m. Download the release here: spraying-e-coventry-6-15-16.

“West Nile Virus identified in mosquito sample in Chester County
West,” release dated 7/15/16. The mosquito sample in question was collected in Tredyffrin on July 7. Download the release here: west-nile-idd.

“Mosquito control treatment scheduled for Thornbury and Birmingham Townships
to prevent West Nile Virus,” release dated 9/9/16. Spraying was scheduled for Sept. 13 from 7:30 pm to 11:00 p.m. Download the release here: spraying-thornbury-birmingham-9-13-16

Also hear an interview about Zika virus with Chesco Health Director Jeanne Casner and other staff members on The Julia Journal, WCHE, 1520 AM, 9/29/16.

West Nile Virus identified in mosquito sample in Chester County

July 19, 2016
Chester County Health Department, News Release #6
For more information call 610-344-6752

West Nile Virus identified in mosquito sample in Chester County

West Chester, PA – The Chester County Health Department is informing residents that a mosquito sample collected in Tredyffrin Township on July 7, 2016 has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV).

This is the first mosquito sample that has tested positive in Chester County in 2016. The Chester County Health Department sets mosquito traps to collect and test adult mosquitoes for WNV as part of routine surveillance. Traps are placed in highly populated areas, known mosquito breeding areas, and in areas where a resident has previously been identified as having a confirmed case of WNV infection. Traps are also placed in response to complaints from residents regarding high levels of mosquito activity. The Chester County Health Department will continue to monitor these areas as well as surrounding areas and will consider mosquito control activities when appropriate.

The chances of contracting WNV from an infected mosquito are small and chances of becoming seriously ill are even smaller. However, the Chester County Health Department encourages county residents to “Make you and your home a bite-free zone”, reducing the risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Because mosquito-borne diseases are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, residents can reduce their risk by using insect repellent and other personal protection and getting rid of standing water on their property.

The Health Department advises:

Limit outdoor activities at dawn and dusk during warmer months since most types of mosquitoes bite most frequently during these times. Be aware though that some types of mosquitoes bite most frequently during the daytime.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and socks. Choose clothing that is light colored and made of tightly woven material.

Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside. Continue reading