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LETTER: West Nile Fogging Should Have Opt-Out

On the eve of a second fogging for West Nile Virus-infected mosquitoes in Mountain View and Los Altos, a South Bay resident writes that she is not convinced that low levels of pesticide do not harm us.

 

Dear Editor,

There is no legitimate scientific evidence to back chemical corporations' claims that "low" levels of pesticides are "safe" for humans & our environment.

We're no longer being told that they're safe, just that they pose "minimal" risk. The M.S.D.S. (safety sheet data) on the chemicals? Far scarier than a statistically-rare infection of W.N. virus turning fatal. I don't want 70-80 % UNDISCLOSED ingredients in what I breathe, and in this case, what I'm forced to breathe. 

Ironically? There is no evidence that aerial spraying is effective. By 2009 our county had effective aerial surveillance for neglected pools; realized that fogging/ spraying aren't effective; so the Vector District's biologists treat them with larvacides/ mosquito-fish. Worse? Pesticides make insects more resistant and more aggressive. Cumulative and multi-generational impact of pesticides on our children's development? Health & fiscal consequences for us, pets, soil, water, air-quality, damage to vehicles/ roofs/ property exposed to fogging? Pesticides are designed to kill: birds, bees, dragonflies, hummingbirds, frogs, ladybugs, fish, aquatic life. Nature provided us with natural mosquito predators but we're indiscriminately killing them. Not nice to "fool Mother Nature?" Really not nice to allow some of the wealthiest chemical corporations in the world to control, alter, and destroy our Valley; our futures. 

Blown-up photos of mosquitoes and constant warnings about being bitten prey on subconscious primitive fears & create a tsunami of mass hysteria. 
We're in an area renowned for tech-devices and research: We need to not accept everything we're told, but do some research; not bury our heads in the sand; not act like chickens running around squawking "The sky is falling!" 

Our urban, sophisticated, educated population can figure out that we can apply practical measures to living compatibly with nature. If you're in an at-risk group, choose not to wear bright/dark clothing; choose unscented hair and body products; unscented laundry products; and know that if you choose to wear fruity and floral perfumes, nail-polish, etc. that you smell like "food" to a hungry mosquito. There are organizations which will help repair screens/ doors, and if not, ask why our county & Vector control district are spending money on chemicals and advertising, rather than keeping us in secure residences and work places. We can ask for a program which would subsidize hummingbird-plants and feeders and other natural predators. 

We do not have an epidemic, infestation, or statistically-true threat to the majority of people in our county; we do not have commercial agricultural industries anymore; ergo it makes more sense to advocate for the healthiest possible eco-system and population than spend money on a rare potential pest. 

However, if the area you live in, work in, or are driving through is being fogged, consider precautions (from the pesticides): keep windows & doors shut tightly; bring in laundry, children's toys, pet toys and water bowls; hummingbird and other bird-feeders; keep children, pets, elderly inside during and for as long after the fogging as possible; shower if you've been exposed. Cover any shoes left outside. Wash off tires, and cars the following morning, and hose off trees, bushes, lawns. Pesticides carried unwittingly into residences and places of work do not have the same ability to dissipate in sunlight/ water.

The University of Oregon is one resource for precautions for pyrethrin fogging: they conducted the research for one of the chemical corporations whose product is being used on our county).

Invest in plants, feeders, habitat areas which encourage hummingbirds, birds, dragonflies, frogs, and so on. If you're brave, buy a bat house. For the few female mosquitoes who have found their way into our county, find natural things for them to eat. We've somehow allowed ourselves to become guinea pigs for mosquitoes as well as chemical corporations. We're allowing the chemical corporations, vector control district, and our own representatives to create a "Catch-22" vicious cycle, but we can get out of it.

Northwestern University Medical School's Department of Molecular Pharmacology & Biological Chemistry (7/01) found "neurological damage from pyrethroids." Journal of Environmental Health (5/88) pesticides were found to affect children's health adversely. Peter Montague of the Environmental Research Foundation points out that "our standard should be equivalent to the FDA; where a product is considered harmful until it's proven safe." Many areas of the country are working on the Precautionary Principle, where the burden of proof of the harmlessness of a new chemical lies with the proponents, not the general public." Peter Montague further states that: "many of the chemicals have significant to subtle negative health and environmental effects at extremely low levels...they are never applied as planned. The compounds, although analyzed for safety and degradation characteristics under ideal laboratory conditions will be applied by real people in the real world. There will always be mistakes, spills, and over-spray." University of California, Berkeley environmental toxicologist, Donald Weston (10/ 06) studied creeks after mosquito spraying & found that toxicity had risen to levels lethal to some insects & small crustaceans; doubled the toxicity of the sediment; and concluded that "the chemical cocktail" used in some California counties is potentially toxic to small animals & insects in creeks. "The combination" of pesticides "enhances pesticides known as pyrethroids already accumulated in the creeks, probably due to runoff from lawns & other urban uses. The combination is far more deadly than the individual chemicals." 

We can tell our elected officials that we want to opt-out of spraying and fogging and to give serious attention to other safer, healthier alternatives, and that the burden of proof of safety for us, our children, our pets, our environment should be theirs. 

Further information on pesticides can be found from organizations devoting time/ energy/ money to researching this: National Pesticide Information Center; Pesticide Watch, Northern California; Pesticide Action Network, North America; Beyond Pesticides; No Spray Coalition, N.Y.; Pesticide-free Zone Organization; Citizens Campaign Organization; meepi.org/wnv/ overkill. 
 
Margaret Harada Mori
Campbell, California 95008

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