There are mosquitos everywhere in summer and autumn. This is particularly worrying when they are found to have Eastern equine encephalitis, a fairly rare but often fatal disease.
Over the years, many local communities have banned outdoor activities such as youth and college sports when an outbreak occurs.
Because of this, residents of the Attleboro area and their neighbors to the east and south have largely applauded when the state stepped up chemical spray efforts to rid the area of the insects. Over the past few years, millions of acres in southeast Massachusetts, where electrical and electronic equipment is most common, have been treated from the air and the ground.
There may be second thoughts now.
According to a new report, expensive spraying with a pesticide called Anvil 10 + 10 contains a number of toxic compounds called PFAS, short for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances.
These so-called “forever chemicals,” found in a number of commercial products that never fully decompose, have been linked to cancer, low birth weight and a range of diseases and have long been criticized by environmentalists.
The amount of some of the chemicals in the pesticide has exceeded recent safety limits set by the state for drinking water. Given the amount of pesticide used and its spread over the years, scientists say the chemicals are likely to have leached into groundwater and other water sources.
But before you stock up on bottled water, there is cause for hope.
While there are no federal laws governing PFAS in our water, most New England states have tightened regulation of these chemicals. Massachusetts’ new regulations will protect drinking water from six well-known PFAS.
More importantly, the state is committed to further reviewing this class of toxic substances.
There seems to be a lot to learn. For years, the use of PFAS in a wide variety of compounds, particularly in food packaging, has been the subject of controversy among scientists who are still aware of the chemical’s side effects. In fact, one study found PFAS was already in the bloodstream in 99 percent of Americans, with most having no effects.
In the meantime, we urge the state to halt further air strikes on mosquitoes pending a thorough review of the impact of PFAS on water supplies in Massachusetts, particularly here in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth. After all, these pests can largely be combated with repellent and long sleeves.
It’s better to play it safe when it comes to chemicals that we don’t fully understand yet.