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Suffolk County Sprays for West Nile Virus
(from August 28, 2002)

Pesticide spraying has begun on Long Island in Suffolk County in response to the West Nile virus, according to The New York Times. The county was sprayed aerially from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday night. Other New York areas sprayed recently due to West Nile concerns include Queens and Staten Island. Residents worried not only about the mosquitoes, but the pesticides being doused upon their communities.

Some people question to necessity of pesticide use in their area. A groundskeeper at Belmont Lake, a vicinity sprayed, mentioned that mosquitoes were not much of a problem this year. One resident, Lori Levine, was visiting a park in the area. “I haven't seen one bloody mosquito this summer," she said. Many are concerned about reactions their children might have to the pesticides. "We don't know what it is they are spraying exactly," said a concerned grandmother of two. One mother mentioned that last year when pesticides were sprayed, county officials were much better about offering advice to residents to protect themselves from the chemicals. This year, there hasn’t been much warning.

The Suffolk County Commissioner of Public Works, Charles Bartha, assured the public that resmethrin, the pesticide Suffolk uses, poses no danger. "There are no special precautions necessary," he said, adding that there is no need to stay indoors or close windows when it is being sprayed. Resmethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid. It is absorbed rapidly and distributed to all tissues including the brain. Skin absorption is low, although it should be noted that some individuals manifest allergic responses including dermatitis, asthma, runny nose and watery eyes after initial contact. In laboratory animals, chronic toxicity studies have shown hypertrophy of the liver, proliferative hyperplasia and benign and cancerous liver tumors. EPA reviewers noted slight, but significant, increases in the number of offspring born dead and decreased viability, which they thought might be secondary to transplacental toxicity. Tests for neurotoxicity have been negative, but it is a suspected endocrine disruptor (PANNA, 2000). Resmethrin is extremely toxic to fish, other aquatic life and bees. The domestic manufacturer of resmethrin, Penick Company, will not identify the inert ingredients in its product, but recommends that it is not sprayed on paint, plastic or varnished surfaces, and that treatment of living areas or areas with large amounts of textiles be avoided.