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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A national public health advocacy organization today called on communities across the country to take a reasoned health-based approach in response to West Nile virus. The Washington-based group, Beyond Pesticides, is working with community residents who are asking for evidence that spraying their communities with toxic pesticides actually controls the virus and is worth the health risks associated with widespread public exposure. The group says that the federal agency responsible for determining the effectiveness of these spray practices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has not conducted reviews, as required by law.
"Ground spraying in general is a waste of money," said noted entomologist and Cornell University professor David Pimentel. "Most ground spraying is political and has very little to do with effective mosquito control."
"EPA's lack of data on the effectiveness of mosquito sprays is problematic because it allows hazardous chemical use despite the availability of alternative preventive and less toxic approaches," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
Many communities across the country are not spraying pesticides for West Nile virus (WNV). Instead, they are adopting preventive strategies that manage mosquito breeding areas and educate people on how to reduce their risk of the virus. Scientific studies link the pesticides used to combat adult mosquitoes to effects on the central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and long-term health effects like cancer and disruption of the endocrine system even at very low doses.
"When we find West Nile present in mosquito pools here in Washington, D.C., we don't spray, said Peggy Keller, chief of the Bureau of Community Hygiene and Animal
Disease Prevention in the D.C. Department of Health. We've learned that the best way to protect the public from both the virus and the pesticides is to intensify our larval program and distribute outreach and education information that emphasizes prevention and protection techniques to the public in the surrounding area." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has previously said that pesticide spraying of adult
mosquitoes is the least effective method of mosquito management.
Preliminary comparison data show no significant difference in the human rates of WNV in communities that ground spray adulticides compared to those that use other methods of mosquito control. According to experts, the threat of WNV is best managed through an integrated program that does not expose vulnerable populations of the society to pesticides, including children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
"Meanwhile, spraying the public with pesticides may in fact contribute to influenza, respiratory disease, or cancer and other illnesses, as well as our susceptibility to getting the virus," said Shawnee Hoover, special projects director with Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Beyond Pesticides