Ought to we cease spraying for mosquitoes throughout the pandemic?

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Nearly 60 years ago, Rachel Carson wrote that the “current fashion for poisons” resulted in a pesticide fire as gross as the cavemen’s club. Massachusetts should remember having another high risk year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

In April, Governor Charlie Baker tabled a bill to enable the state mosquito control agency to eradicate mosquitoes “at its own discretion.” Citing the unprecedented proliferation of electrical and electronic equipment over the past year and the fact that several places have no plans to control mosquitoes, Baker’s law allows the state to begin spraying pesticides without local submissions or notification. The state sprayed about 200,000 acres in Plymouth and Bristol counties once this year.

The Joint Public Health Committee and Senate Legislature made major improvements to Baker’s law in a bill passed on June 11th. They added a lot more requirements to educate the public about the mosquito control they intend to do, such as: B. a period of at least two days on the areas to be sprayed, the compounds used and known health risks. There would also be a new task force to make recommendations on pest control next year, with some conservation organizations sitting at the table. This bill was signed this summer.

Should we be using compounds that could affect a person’s airways during a pandemic?

Many unsolved problems remain. In the short term, we should question spraying at all during the COVID-19 crisis. In its current EEE efforts, the state is using Anvil 10 + 10, which contains two active ingredients: sumithrin, which both suppresses the immune system and irritates the airways, and PBO, a potential human carcinogen. Should we be using compounds that could affect a person’s airways during a pandemic?

In the long term, we want the state to move from pesticides to prevention, especially since there is no evidence that spraying reduces the incidence of electrical and electronic equipment in humans. Last year the state performed six airborne sprays for $ 5 million. The first three sprays in August had very different results, allegedly reducing mosquitoes by 38 to 91%. The state sprayed three more times in September, despite the fact that the mosquito population was practically zero due to cool temperatures. None of these sprays removed electrical and electronic equipment mosquitoes and wasted $ 2.2 million in tax dollars.

Instead of throwing money away at the back of a mosquito problem, we should improve larval control to combat both EEE and West Nile virus. The Commonwealth itself writes on its website: “Fighting larval mosquitoes while they are still concentrated in a pool of water is easier, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than fighting absent-minded adults.” and electronic equipment depends primarily on the application of personal preventive behaviors by individuals. “

Steam sprayed to control mosquitos hangs in the air as it exits the nozzle of an East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project pickup truck while driving through a neighborhood in Burlington, Massachusetts, July 8, 2020 (Charles Krupa / AP).

We should also think about the impact on other animals that are vital to our agriculture economy, such as B. Bees, which are essential pollinators of many fruits and vegetables. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection acknowledges that anvil 10 + 10 is “toxic” to aquatic life and “highly toxic” to honeybees. Massachusetts is home to approximately 380 species of wild bees, many of which are suffering from population decline, partly due to the use of pesticides. The planet is suffering from an insect apocalypse that will affect our own survivability.

The Commonwealth should reconsider the widespread use of Sumithrin pesticide spraying and focus on educating the public and helping residents repair holes in screens, clean up stagnant brood water in yards and use personal repellants. We have fundamental concerns about the Massachusetts approach to treating mosquito-borne diseases. There are serious scientific questions about whether spraying on the ground and / or in the air actually reduces the risk of disease or, instead, poses a greater risk to public health and the environment than is worthwhile.

If we can change the mosquito control paradigm, it would indeed be in the spirit of Carson, who said in “Silent Spring” that we must exercise our “right to know” and that “we should no longer accept their advice” that tell us we need to fill our world with toxic chemicals. “Since the” cure “can be worse than the problem, the question arises whether we should use poisons at all.

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