The Alleged “Cure” Is Worse Than The Disease: Why NYC Ought to Stop Spraying Toxic Pesticides — Central Park/Upper West Side to Be Sprayed Early Friday Morning

Updated

Should we be killing lady bugs?

My first foray into grassroots activism in New York City was in year 2000 when I first became aware of the mass pesticide spraying being conducted to allegedly stop the spread of West Nile virus. I read an article in the New York Times about the effects this spraying would have on the ecosystem, down to the smallest insects. I later learned about the problems the pesticide had on human health but honestly it was the wildlife and the insects that first got my attention and my concern. I went to a meeting and immediately became involved in the No Spray Coalition and, for the last 12 years I have been involved, through our lawsuit against the City of New York, media work, organizing, and on-the-ground activism.

Year 2000: Pesticide spraying of pregnant women and kids on streets of Harlem – video shown in federal court and all news channels

Via the No Spray Coalition’s attempt to get a TRO (temporary restraining order) to STOP the spraying in 2000, that year in federal court, our lawyers showed footage (shot by two volunteers who followed the trucks) of one of the spray trucks careening through Harlem with its toxic brew covering kids, a pregnant woman, people walking out on the street with no warning. That evening, this footage and news of the law suit was shown on every New York City news channel.

The spraying has gone on year after year since then, it gets less attention each year, and less media coverage – that does not mean that it is less problematic. Members of the No Spray Coalition, including myself, met with the City’s Department of Health in January of this year, the final one of two meetings that they agreed to, mandated by the court. This was a result of the settlement of our lawsuit in which the City made some concessions to the health effects of pesticides. You’d never know it from the way the spray program is continuing this summer.

Manhattan has not been sprayed in years; in recent years, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens get the brunt of it.

In the wee hours of the morning, Friday, August 31st, trucks will be blanketing the Upper West Side of Manhattan from 58th Street to 97th Street, West End Avenue to West Drive – including parts of Central Park – from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The pesticide the city is using Anvil 10+10 is comprised of sumithrin and piperonyl butoxide, the former is a suspected neurotoxicant and hormone disrupter; the latter a suspected carcinogen.

Local Law 37 passed by the City Council in 2005 – advocating the city’s use of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) first – Is this how it was supposed to be implemented?

In 2005, the City Council passed Local Law 37 which was supposed to incorporate IPM (Integrated Pest Management) into the city system. With the West Nile Virus spraying, the Department of Health grants itself an “emergency” exemption every year for every occurrence and the person who grants the exemption to the Vector Control office of the Department of Health is the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health. So there’s basically no real oversight of how this is handled.

I’ve been told the The Department of Health cut their budget for larvaciding this year – larvaciding is a preventative measure and the CDC says the most effective one.

I called the Department of Health press office and asked some questions that went beyond the information that was in the press release:  FOUR mosquito pools had “infected” (West Nile virus) mosquitoes in Manhattan? Where were those pools? Is a mosquito pool the same as a trap? What is the criteria for spraying? — It was fairly clear that no one from the press is asking these detailed questions because the answers to those questions were not quite so rehearsed as the others, if they were answered at all.

You have a greater chance of getting hit by lightning than getting West Nile Virus

2600 people die each year in New York City from the flu – the question of whether West Nile Virus is a credible “health threat” looms large. Most who get it won’t even know they have it. Yes, for some people, they may have more severe symptoms but that is not a reason to be exposing EVERY PERSON across countless blocks to these toxic pesticides which weaken our immune systems and make someone who might be susceptible to West Nile virus more so.

Anvil 10 + 10 – Pyrethroid Pesticide

The pesticide the City is spraying — “Anvil 10 + 10″ — belongs to a class of adulticides known as pyrethroids, which are endocrine disruptors. They mimic hormones such as estrogen, and may cause breast cancer in women and drastically lower sperm counts in men. Pyrethroids have also been associated with prostate cancer, miscarriages and preterm delivery, asthma, toxicity to many vital organs including the nervous system, liver, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract, skin rashes, itching and blisters, and nausea and vomiting.

Anvil contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a suspected carcinogen. It also contains Sumithrin — a synthetic toxin, made in the laboratory — as well as benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”)

Spraying in Parks = Bad Idea (Again, Should We be Killing Lady Bugs?)

Spraying increases the mosquito population and kills the mosquitoes’ natural predators including dragonflies, bats, frogs and birds.

Spraying parks is particularly horrifying because there is a natural balance there and it harms many of the living beings that inhabit the park, as well as, again, the mosquito natural predators. Some years ago, when I was handing out flyers at Prospect Park before another round of pesticide spraying, a woman told me she walked through the park the morning after it had been sprayed and encountered endless numbers of ladybugs on the ground dying. Should we be killing ladybugs? I don’t think so.

Another resource on the pesticide being used.

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** When I first read the Department of Health press release I thought this round of pesticide spraying was taking place TOMORROW morning not later tonight (Thursday) into Friday morning 8/31. A small clarification, instead of writing “Friday morning August 31 between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” stating “EARLY Friday morning” would have made a world of difference. I am sure there are people who made the same assumption and do not realize their Upper West Side neighborhood will be pesticide sprayed imminently. **

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4 Comments

  1. Kat Reid

     /  August 30, 2012

    You are right on all of the above. The spraying is misguided and reflects a desire to protect the public health departmetn’s own budget line, not the actual public health. Fear-mongering = more money allotted to the agency. These chemicals are very dangerous, much more so than they are portrayed to be by the pesticide industries who bankroll their “safety” studies and the EPA who rubber-stamps the approvals. The largest source of EPA fundingcomes from fees assessed on the industries it regulates. I was personally poisoned by a supposedly “safe” pesticide. My pancreas is now permanently damaged, and I have extreme chemical sensitivity as a result. Moreover, I had to leave NYC, where I previously lived, because I could not avoid the residual spray drift sufficiently to prevent my condition from worsening. Pesticides are a public health debacle and should never be a go-to option when any other alternatives are available and when the risk fromt he “pest” is marginal at best.

  2. NikFromNYC

     /  August 31, 2012

    Switch to DDT if you want safety.

    -=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in chemistry (Columbia)

  3. Slot Robbins

     /  September 4, 2012

    If my neighbor gets hit by lightning and dies it’s unfortunate. If my child gets West NIle and dies it’s a tragedy.

  4. Hi Kat,
    I’m sorry to hear of your experience and your health issues and having to leave NYC. Your comments are very spot on. I wish you well.

    NikFromNYC,
    Hmmm… not sure about the DDT issue tho’ I know there are some advocating for it. However, I’m not convinced and think that neither is needed here. But thanks for commenting.

    Slot Robbins,

    The lightning is not predictable and potentially not avoidable but the pesticides are both. Children for the most part actually don’t get West Nile virus but are very susceptible to the effects of the pesticides. You’d be well served keeping your children – and yourself – away from them.

    Thanks for all your comments!

    best,
    Cathryn
    WSP Blog.

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