As local pesticide spray programs targeting adult mosquitoes with West Nile virus continue throughout the U.S., and with the new emergence of Zika virus, it must be recognized that spray programs are of very limited efficacy. That is, spraying is NOT an effective or efficient way to prevent death or illness associated with insect-borne diseases.
A large part of this has to do with understanding the life cycle of mosquitoes and their biology. Another large part of this has to do with the inability, especially in an urban environment, to hit target insects with typical ground spraying from trucks or by aerial application.
While recognizing the public health threat of Zika virus, West Nile virus (WNv) and other mosquito-borne diseases, and given the limited efficacy of adulticidal sprays, or pesticides meant to target adult mosquitoes, it becomes even more important to recognize the public health hazards associated with widespread pesticide exposure. This has become especially timely given the current discussion over the potential use of DDT to combat the Zika virus (See Zika virus: Is DDT an option?, published on CNN.com). Researchers have linked DDT exposure to effects on fertility, immunity, hormones and brain development, while the pesticides most commonly used across to target mosquitoes across the country are neurotoxic and have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. People with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitive people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma, are particularly vulnerable to these pesticides and will suffer disproportionately from exposure.
Beyond Pesticides has also reached out to EPA with concerns over the use of insecticides, such as naled (including its degradation product dichlorvos (DDVP)) and synthetic pyrethroids, to combat Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. You can read our letter to EPA here, as well as the response from the agency.
Mosquito Management: The Fundamentals
Management Strategies and Alternatives
Efficacy of Adulticides
Chemical Toxicity and Health Effects for Commonly used Mosquito Pesticides
If you are concerned about the spraying of pesticides in your community or local environment, want a copy of Beyond Pesticides' organizing packet, or want to get involved in any way, please act now and contact Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450.