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    Chemical warfare in Multnomah County

    The Portland Alliance, August 2003

    Oregon is one of only four states left unaffected by West Nile Virus, a disease spread by mosquitoes which has been found in Washington and California. Anticipating the arrival of West Nile Virus in Portland, the Multnomah County Vector and Nuisance Control has pest control plans which include spraying toxic pesticides aimed at killing adult mosquitoes ("adulticides"). To its credit, the Multnomah County Health Department has been committed to using preventive measures such as cleaning up standing bodies of water and using larvicide to decrease mosquito populations. However, as the threat of West Nile Virus moves closer, a departure from the cautious application of pesticides is being considered more seriously. West Nile Virus has been painted by national media as an exotic and lethal disease, but it has not become the plague originally feared. Since the introduction of West Nile Virus into the U.S. in 1999, only 284 people have died from it. By contrast, about 36,000 Americans die every year from the flu virus. Of course, even one death is of serious concern and everything that can be safely done to prevent future deaths should be done, but spraying adulticides is not an effective use of public resources and may be more destructive than helpful. Spraying adulticides is the least effective means of mosquito control. The spray often does not hit targeted mosquitoes since the chemicals must make contact with the insect, and mosquitoes are excellent at finding nooks to hide in. Moreover, the chemicals have no residual mosquito killing effects and do nothing to kill mosquito larvae. Spraying pesticides for adult mosquitoes destroys natural mosquito predators like spiders and dragonflies, and mosquitoes that survive spraying may become pesticide-resistant, longer lived, more aggressive and have an increased prevalence of the virus in their bodies. Another environmental effect of spraying includes contaminants in rivers and streams which are deadly to a variety of species, including fish, aquatic invertebrates and birds. Research shows many health problems associated with pesticide exposure, including nausea, vomiting, runny nose, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Long-term health effects can also result from pesticide exposure. For example, research has linked pesticide exposure to a variety of serious illnesses including cancer, birth defects and injuries to the immune system, reproductive system and endocrine system. Pyrethroid pesticides, the type of adulticide the county would most likely use, are especially dangerous to asthmatics. The effects of pesticide spraying in New York during the past few years are certainly alarming; five truck drivers who applied pesticides in New York City for WNV control in 2000 became severely ill with fatigue, joint pain, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, nausea, and asthma. According to the New York State Department of Health, in 2000 more people in New York City got sick from the pesticide spraying for mosquito control than from the West Nile Virus. In light of the damaging evidence, cities and counties around the country are reviewing their spraying policies. Government health officials in Fort Worth, Texas and Washington, DC have decided not to spray adulticides even though West Nile Virus has been found within city limits. Health officials in Fort Worth weighed the environmental impact and danger to humans against the results achieved by widespread spraying and concluded, "The potential inhalation hazard to the general population does not seem worth the risk of killing a few mosquitoes." ( www.fortworthgov.org) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the most effective way to control mosquitoes is for municipalities and private property owners to clean up standing bodies of water and other breeding sites. Larvicides, which kill mosquitoes before they hatch, are the second most effective means for controlling mosquitoes. Using natural predators such as fish that eat mosquito larva also contributes non-invasively to mosquito control. Please use your voice as a concerned citizen to thank the Multnomah County Vector and Nuisance Control for the preventive measures that have successfully kept West Nile Virus from coming to Oregon, and remind them of the great risks and small rewards that come with spraying pesticides to control mosquitoes.

    Please Contact
    Dr. Garry Oxman
    Health Officer for Multnomah County
    Multnomah County Commissioners:
    Diane Linn, Chair 503-988-3308
    c/o Deborah Bogstad, Board Clerk
    (Ask her to forward your concerns to all the County Commissioners)

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    Published on: 2005-02-23 (1855 reads)

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