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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Mosquitoes' Category


05
Oct

Exposure to Widely Used Bug Sprays Linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2022) Exposure to widely used synthetic pyrethroids, present in many mosquito adulticides and household insecticides like RAID, is associated with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, according to research published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. This is the latest pesticide-induced disease associated with this dangerous class of chemicals – a harm to individual Americans that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not considering when it registers pesticides. To remedy the major deficiencies in EPA’s reviews, and protect residents from chronic disease, more and more communities are transitioning to safer, organic pest management practices that do not require pyrethroids and other toxic synthetic pesticides. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation throughout the body, resulting in progressive damage to an individual’s joints. In the United States, roughly 1.3 million adults suffer from RA, accounting for nearly 1% of the adult population. Health care costs associated with the disease reach nearly $20 billion annually. To better understand the etiology behind the disease, an international team of researchers from China, Illinois, and Missouri analyzed data from the 2007-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a long-running program that began in the early 1960s […]

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24
Mar

Certain Essential Oils Found To Be Highly Effective at Killing Mosquito Larvae and Adults

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2022) A range of essential oils can provide high levels of larvicidal and adulticidal activity against a commonly found species of mosquito, according to research published last week in Scientific Reports. The use of essential oils in mosquito management has generally been limited to personal protection, with synthetic pesticides often the first choice for vector control activities. This research highlights the potential role of these natural compounds to replace hazardous synthetics in managing larval sources and killing adult mosquitoes under last-resort scenarios. The team of Egyptian-based scientists conducting the study purchased 32 different essential oils from a regional retailer in order to test them on both the larval and adult stages of Culex pipiens. C. pipiens, often referred to as the common house mosquito, is the most abundant mosquito in the Northern U.S., and is known to vector West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis, among other diseases. Larval efficacy was tested on the fourth instar larvae of C. pipiens, delivered through a mixture of the essential oil, water, and the solvent Tween-20, which contains the surfactant Polysorbate-20, used to emulsify the mixture. All oils tested had some level of larvicidal activity (between 60-100%). Researchers classified […]

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16
Mar

EPA Permits Experimental Release of 2.5 Billion Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in California and Florida

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2022) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the “experimental use” and release of 2.5 billion genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in Florida and California by the British-based firm Oxitec. While the goal of eliminating disease carrying mosquitoes is an important public health challenge, public opinion has been consistently against the use of these animals, with nearly 240,000 individuals opposing a pilot program in the Florida Keys. Health and environmental advocates have a range of concerns with Oxitec’s approach, including the size of its latest experiment, lack of publicly verifiable efficacy data, and availability of alternative management practices not requiring GE mosquitoes. Oxitec began public releases of its GE mosquitoes at least a decade ago, when mosquito larvae were introduced in the Brazilian town of Itaberaba. The company has consistently angled to launch its mosquitoes in the United States under the claim that the animals will reduce numbers of Aedes aegypti, a highly problematic mosquito known to vector a range of diseases, including dengue, yellow fever chikungunya, and Zika. Research analyzing Oxitec’s proposals note that the risk of dengue and other disease from Aedes aegypti is low in the United States. In a recent study in Globalization […]

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03
Mar

Study Confirms Children’s Exposure to Mosquito Pesticides Increases Risk of Respiratory Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2022) Children’s exposure to synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, particularly during the course of mosquito control operations, is associated with increased occurrence of certain respiratory diseases and allergic outcomes, finds research published in the journal Thorax late last month. With a pandemic respiratory virus continuing to spread throughout the world, it has become increasingly important to avoid environmental exposures that can harm lung health. This research underscores the critical need for homeowners, farmers, and vector control officials to shift away from chemical use as the first line of defense against pest problems in order to safeguard children’s health. A total of 303 women and their children participated in the study, which tracked pesticide exposure during pregnancy and then at age five. All participants in the study lived within roughly three miles of a banana plantation. A structured questionnaire captured a range of variables, from socioeconomic status to medical history, local environmental conditions, occupation, and demographics. Researchers collected urine samples from pregnant mothers during the first visit, and their children during the 5-year follow-up. Urine samples were analyzed for metabolites concerning a range of pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, synthetic pyrethroids, the fungicides mancozeb, pyrimethanil, and thiabendazole, and the herbicide 2,4-D. […]

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24
Feb

Mosquito Resistance to Pesticides Continues to Grow

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2022) Widespread, intensive pesticide use for mosquito control has allowed genetic mutations to persist among mosquito populations, causing subsequent resistance to future chemical exposure. According to a study published in Scientific Reports, two common species of female mosquitoes learned to evade pesticides following non-fatal exposure through smell. More concerning is the survival rate of these pre-exposed mosquitoes, as it is more than double that of unexposed mosquitoes. Insects, including mosquitoes, use various sensory and cognitive abilities like vision, smell, and hearing to navigate the ecosystem for survival and reproduction. Mosquitoes associate sensory stimuli like smell to a positive or negative experience, thus facilitating a response. Considering the two species of mosquitoes in this study are a vector for numerous diseases in humans, including dengue and Zika and West Nile viruses. Hence, this study highlights the significance of addressing pest resistance in pest management strategies, particularly to mitigate disease exposure and effects. The study notes, “[The] findings highlight the importance of mosquito cognition as determinants of pesticide resistance in mosquito populations targeted by chemical control.” It is essential to understand insect behavior that propagates vector-borne disease transmission that exacerbates the widespread public health crisis. Scientists attribute memory […]

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11
Feb

Biotech Fixes for Pesticide Failures Continue Treadmill of Increased Toxic Chemical Use

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2022) A team of researchers has proffered a potential, biotechnical, way forward in the quest to reduce the scourge of malaria, which affects many people across the world. Their work uses the relatively new “Crispr” technique to address, and reverse, the growing problem of mosquito resistance to the pesticides that currently dominate control strategies for the insects that spread the disease. This innovation nevertheless raises concern about both the introduction of new, genetically altered organisms into the environment without sufficient information on the implications, and continued, intensive pesticide use. Beyond Pesticides recognizes, as do the researchers, that malaria-borne mosquitoes pose a serious public health problem; however, it advocates for alternatives to chemical approaches to managing the spread of the disease, and asserts that successful management strategies will contend with the underlying conditions that exacerbate that spread. In 2020, Executive Director Jay Feldman said, “We should focus on the deplorable living conditions, and inequitable distribution of wealth and resources worldwide that give rise to squalor, inhumane living conditions, and the poor state of development that, together, breed insect-borne diseases like malaria.”     Malaria, which is spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes infected with a Plasmodium parasite, causes illness in more than 200 million people annually, and is lethal to more than 400,000, […]

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16
Nov

Disease Carrying Mosquitoes More Prevalent in Neighborhoods of Low Socioeconomic Status

(Beyond Pesticides, November 16, 2021) Populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes are higher in urban areas of lower socioeconomic status, according to research published this year in the Journal of Urban Ecology. With insect-borne diseases on the rise due to a rapidly changing climate, it is critical to highlight disease patterns and target aid to communities at greatest risk. While pesticide use is often the knee-jerk reaction to high mosquito populations, it is critical not to compound health risks through toxic chemical use. The factors that lead to higher rates of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be remedied through considerate planning and targeted, consistent investment in sustainable infrastructure. To determine the prevalence of mosquito populations, in particular populations of disease-carrying Aedes aegypti, along a gradient of socioeconomic status, researchers began their work in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Eight neighborhoods across the region were categorized based on socioeconomic factors such as household income, population density, health coverage, unemployment level, education, and the amount of trash and abandoned homes in the area.  Mosquitoes were sampled from October 2018 to May 2019, using six mosquito traps per neighborhood. A total of over 12,000 mosquitoes were trapped over the course of the study, with nearly 90% of traps […]

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28
Sep

Common Mosquito Pesticide Exacerbates Health Issues Associated with Zika Virus

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2021) A widely used mosquito pesticide may exacerbate the effect of the Zika virus on fetal brain development, according to research published by an international team of scientists in the journal Environmental Pollution. Pyriproxyfen, an insect growth regulator often used as a mosquito larvicide, is registered for use in hundreds of commonly used pesticide products. But scientists have discovered that the pesticide’s mode of action has the potential to worsen the public health mosquito diseases the chemical aims to control. The research reinforces the extent of unknowns associated with synthetic pesticide exposure, underlining the need for a focus on nontoxic and ecological mosquito management. Scientists base their research on reports that in Brazil, during the 2015 Zika epidemic, certain areas of the country experienced higher rates of microcephaly. Microcephaly is a rare condition that causes pregnant women’s fetus to develop severe cranial deformities, alongside a range of other symptoms that include vision problems, hearing loss, feeding issues, developmental delays and seizures. The present study aimed to see how pyriproxyfen, used at higher rates in areas where microcephaly Zika cases were recorded, may interact with the virus. In an article published in The Conversation, researchers note that […]

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27
Jul

Researchers Develop Pesticide-Free, Mosquito-Proof Clothing

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2021) Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed pesticide-free clothing able to prevent 100% of mosquito bites for the wearer, and published proof of the garment’s effectiveness in a study in the journal Insects. If able to be scaled at a commercial level, the fabrics have the potential to transform personal protective measures for mosquitoes, which often includes in well-meaning consumers spraying toxic pesticides like DEET and permethrin on their body and clothing. “The fabric is proven to work – that’s the great thing we discovered,” said study co-author Andre West, associate professor of fashion and textile design at NC State and director of Zeis Textiles Extension for Economic Development in a press release. “To me, that’s revolutionary. We found we can prevent the mosquito from pushing through the fabric, while others were thick enough to prevent it from reaching the skin.” To create the mosquito-proof fabric, scientists turned to physics and mathematical models, rather than looking for new killer chemistries. “Our premise here is: why do we need an insecticide-treated textile when you can do it, now that you know a mathematical formula, without chemistry?” said Michael Roe, PhD, an N.C. State professor of entomology […]

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01
Jul

Disease Carrying Mosquitoes Developing Resistance to Widely Used Mosquito Control Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2021) Yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) are evolving resistance to the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin, according to a study published by Colorado State University, highlighting the need to adopt ecologically-based mosquito management. Widespread, intensive use of the pesticide in mosquito control has allowed genetic mutations to persist among these mosquito populations, causing subsequent resistance to permethrin. Pyrethroids are one of the few remaining classes of insecticides available to control yellow fever mosquitos, and resistance threatens the ability to prevent disease outbreaks with chemical-intensive methods. Yellow fever mosquitoes are a vector for numerous untreatable diseases in humans, including dengue, chikungunya fever, and Zika viruses. Hence, this study highlights the significance of addressing pest resistance to pesticide control, particularly to mitigate disease exposure and effects. The researchers note, “This knowledge can help scientists understand how mosquitoes have evolved resistance and when a population can no longer be controlled with permethrin. This understanding will be necessary to develop tools to support future insecticide management strategies.” Researchers sequenced the genome of resistant and knockdown (either recovered or dead) mosquitoes after permethrin exposure using a bottle bioassay. The aim was to identify genomic variants/biomarkers associated with specific resistance mechanisms. Two common pyrethroid resistance mechanisms occur among […]

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19
Mar

Vermont Committee Recommends Mosquito Spray Program Needs Special Permit to Operate

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2021) As reported by VTDigger, Vermont’s Endangered Species Committee recently took action to uphold the state’s endangered species law. The committee announced that a mosquito control program in the Champlain Valley, which uses the toxic pesticides malathion and permethrin, is threatening five species of endangered bats — all of which are on Vermont’s list of threatened and endangered species. The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the state Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources that the spraying program in the Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen, Pittsford Insect Control District be allowed only via special permit. Learn about safer mosquito management and insect-borne diseases at Beyond Pesticides website pages. The bats inhabit the Insect Control District’s five towns, which are host to important feeding habitat for these creatures, as well as maternal roosting colonies where baby bats are born and raised during the months when the pesticides are typically sprayed. In addition, the nighttime spraying of these compounds along 190 miles of road in these communities hangs in the air for hours, putting nocturnally active bats — who fly through the toxic mist or consume insects contaminated with the chemicals — at risk. Mason Overstreet of Vermont […]

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03
Mar

Massachusetts Regulators Restrict Consumer Use of Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2021) Earlier this week, pesticide regulators in the commonwealth of Massachusetts voted to restrict outdoor consumer uses of neonicotinoid insecticides. The move is the result of sustained advocacy from broad coalition of individuals and organizations focused on protecting pollinators and ecosystem health. While advocates are pleased that the Pesticide Board Subcommittee made Massachusetts the first state in the country to restrict neonicotinoids through a regulatory process, they note this is only the first step in eliminating these hazardous insecticides. “This marks an incremental victory which took us 6 years to land, and it only happened because of immense, ongoing grassroots action and legislative allies who are willing to hold state regulators accountable,” said Martin Dagoberto, Policy Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Mass. Chapter in a press release. “We still have a monumental endeavor ahead if we are to reduce toxins and rein in the toxic influence of the chemical lobby,” Mr. Dagoberto added. Advocates had been pushing the legislature to pass An Act to protect Massachusetts Pollinators, sponsored by pollinator champion Representative Carolyn Dykema, since 2014. Following several failures by state lawmakers to bring the bill over the finish line, efforts in 2019 resulted […]

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16
Sep

The Way Humans Alter the Environment Increases the Prevalence of Disease Carrying Mosquitoes

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2020) Disease carrying mosquitoes are more likely to flourish in areas being altered by human activities, according to new research published by scientists at Oregon State University. With climate change facilitating the spread of mosquitoes into new regions throughout the world, it is critical to understand the drivers of mosquito-borne disease in order to establish effective mitigation measures. “People care a lot about what environment a lion needs to succeed in; we’ve researched that extensively. But people don’t do that with mosquitoes. We don’t understand them as a group of species and how their ecology differs between species,” said study co-author Brianna Beechler, PhD, a disease ecologist and assistant professor of research in Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. Authors of the study note that most mosquito collection occurs opportunistically, with samples taken at known mosquito breeding sites. To better understand mosquito spatial ecology, scientists conducted paired sampling at locations inside and outside South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the largest nature preserve in the country. Each sample location inside the park was paired with another sample from a similar location (in terms of landscape and climatic conditions) in developing areas outside of the park. […]

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02
Sep

Monarch Massacre: Hundreds of Monarch Butterflies Die After Aerial Mosquito Spraying in North Dakota

(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2020) It’s being called the Monarch Massacre—hundreds of monarch butterflies found dead after the Vector Control Department of Cass County, North Dakota aerially sprayed the county for mosquito control. This incident occurred during a moment in history that is seeing monarchs at the edge of extinction, with the number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico having declined 53% from last year, according to a count conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico. This tragedy happened as the nation and the world are experiencing an insect apocalypse and severe biodiversity decline, threatening the web of life. (See Study Predicts Demise of Insects within Decades if Pesticide Dependence Continues.) While it is critical that steps be taken by communities nationwide to protect their local ecology, the incident generated a response from Cass County that claims that the insecticides used are “the lowest toxicity products on the market for mosquito control,” and points to the “monarch migration [that] is a sporadic event that unfortunately occurred during the latest adult mosquito control application.”  The County justifies the spraying because of nuisance mosquitoes and a finding in the “surrounding communities” of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus (WNv). In its Facebook statement, the County […]

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04
Aug

Massachusetts Enacts New Measures for Mosquito Management with Pros and Cons

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2020) Last month Massachusetts lawmakers finalized, and the Governor subsequently signed, emergency legislation S.2757, aimed at revamping the state’s approach to mosquito management. The final version of this mosquito reform bill continues to include certain problematic provisions, but nonetheless represents a significant shift from an initial proposal that would have allowed the blanket spraying of mosquito adulticides throughout the Commonwealth with little oversight, notification, or transparency. “Though many cooks had a hand in the process, the resulting final bill was strengthened by advocates,” said state Senator Jo Comerford, Chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health, in an emailed statement to supporters. “I’m pleased that we were able to build in strong protections for both the environment and human health.” The original bill was filed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) under emergency legislative provisions, requiring state lawmakers to act within a set period of time. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) had indicated that this year would bring higher risks of mosquito-borne disease, particularly Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), for which outbreaks generally last two or three years. The state saw 12 human cases of EEE and four deaths from the disease in 2019; […]

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20
Jul

Take Action: Tell Public Officials to Stop Mosquito Spraying and Adopt a Safe, Effective Mosquito Management Plan

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2020) Does your community spray toxic pesticides for mosquitoes? In a well-intentioned but ill-informed attempt to prevent mosquito-borne illness such as West Nile virus, many communities spray insecticides (adulticides) designed to kill flying mosquitoes. If your community is one of these, then your public officials need to know that there is a better, more-effective, way to prevent mosquito breeding. Tell your public officials to stop spraying pesticides and adopt a mosquito management plan that protects public health and the environment. The problem with mosquito pesticides. Two classes of insecticides are favored by mosquito spray programs—organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids. In order to better target flying mosquitoes, adulticides are generally applied as ultra-low-volume (ULV) formulations that will float in the air longer than usual.  Pesticides are toxic chemicals and can exacerbate respiratory illnesses like Covid-19.Organophosphates, which include malathion (Fyfanon), naled (Dibrom), and chlorpyrifos (Mosquitomist for public health uses only) are highly toxic pesticides that affect the central nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. Symptoms of poisoning in humans include numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness, incontinence, convulsions, and death. Some organophosphates have been linked to […]

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08
Jul

With 400,000 Malaria Deaths Worldwide, Insect Resistance to Mosquito Pesticides Calls for Urgent Need to Shift to Alternative Management Strategies

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2020) Efforts to control the transmission of malaria are encountering a big, though predictable, problem: the mosquitoes that transmit malaria are developing resistance to at least five of the insecticides that have been central to limiting transmission of the disease. A study released in late June reveals a dramatic increase in resistance to pyrethroid insecticides and DDT across sub-Saharan Africa. This signals the failure of a mainstay chemical approach to the spread of malarial mosquitoes; this same problem — resistance — is happening with chemical management of agricultural pests and weeds, and with antibiotics to treat human bacterial infections. This study underscores a point Beyond Pesticides has made repeatedly: resistance to pesticides (whether insecticides, herbicides, biocides, fungicides, or medical antibiotics) is nearly inevitable. The solution to containing the spread of malaria lies not in the use of more and different chemicals, but in nontoxic approaches that respect nature and ecological balance. Malaria is a sometimes deadly disease caused by female Anopheles mosquitoes infected with any of four varieties of the Plasmodium parasite. The disease kills roughly 400,000 people annually, with half that mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. sees approximately 2,000 cases of malaria annually, primarily in […]

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05
Jun

Massachusetts Struggles for Safe, Effective Mosquito  Management; Governor’s Arbovirus Proposal Much Improved but Big Questions Remain

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2020) Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts is wrestling with solutions for mosquito-borne illnesses such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). A coalition consisting of national, state and local nonprofits, with the assistance of 75 legislators, won major amendments to emergency legislation sponsored by Governor Charles Baker, but the coalition seeks further refinements. As originally introduced, Gov. Baker’s bill (H.4650 – see original legislation and amended version) would have given state agencies overly broad authority to eradicate mosquitoes through unlimited pesticide applications, without local input or notification to communities and residents prior to aerial spraying.  It would have suspended all environmental safeguards whenever state officials determine that an elevated risk of arbovirus “may exist” in the future.  In response to input from 75 legislators, the Joint Committee on Public Health made significant improvements to the bill, including– Giving property owners 48-hour notification before a spray event; Providing public notice as to what chemical agents will be sprayed; and Sunset emergency powers within two years, and authorization of a comprehensive stakeholder-driven evaluation of how the Commonwealth deals with mosquito control. “We applaud lawmakers for significantly improving accountability and transparency, but more work is needed,” […]

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08
May

Proposed Legislation To Allow Massachusetts to Blanket State with Mosquito Pesticides that Attack the Immune and Respiratory Systems, During a Pandemic that Attacks the Same Systems

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2020) At the height of Covid-19 impacts in the Northeast U.S., Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito (R) filed emergency legislation at the Boston State House that would, according to their April 16 press release, “help the Commonwealth more effectively combat diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including arboviruses like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV), by authorizing a coordinated, proactive, statewide approach to mosquito control activities.” Protecting the public from such diseases is an important public health mission. However, the Governor’s bill, H.4650, represents an alarming “over-reach” that would give unitary authority to the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to conduct mosquito control activities, including ineffective and toxic spraying, with virtually no effective oversight or transparency. Beyond Pesticides opposes this bill, whose passage would enable use of pesticides that can have respiratory and immune impacts — increasing health risks for everyone, but especially for the many people already at higher risk from Covid-19, despite the availability of ecological management approaches that eliminate the need for toxic chemicals. H.4650, An Act to mitigate arbovirus in the Commonwealth — was promulgated in response to a Massachusetts Department of Public Health […]

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07
May

Court Requires EPA to Respond to Petition to Ban Toxic Pesticide in Pet Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2020) On April 22, 2020, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 90 days to respond to Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) petition requesting cancellation of tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), a toxic organophosphate pesticide in pet products. The order followed the Ninth Circuit’s decision to grant NRDC’s petition for a writ of mandamus (a court’s order requiring a lower court or public authority to perform its statutory duty) as EPA withheld action to fulfill NRDC’s judicial review of TCVP, for over a decade. A favorable ruling on NRDC’s mandamus petition can influence other petitioners that hope to coerce agency action, especially when public health is at risk. The court states, “Repeatedly, the EPA has kicked the can down the road and betrayed its prior assurances of timely action, even as it has acknowledged that the pesticide poses widespread, serious risks to the neurodevelopmental health of children.” NRDC petitioned EPA to cancel TCVP pesticide registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in April 2009, after studies indicated humans absorb TCVP through contact with pesticide-treated pet products. EPA failed to respond to the initial petition after five years, and NRDC filed a 2014 mandamus requiring […]

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25
Sep

Mysterious “Havana syndrome” Linked to Neurotoxic Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2019) In 2016, Canadians and Americans residing in Havana reported symptoms of headaches, dizziness, nausea. They described hearing strange buzzing and high-pitched sounds – some woke in the middle of the night fumbling for alarm clocks that were not going off. Media used the term “Havana syndrome” to describe the illness. Diplomats, scared by symptoms that seemed to only hit them in their hotel rooms or at home, speculated that a sonic weapon was being used against them. The Trump administration accused Cuban leaders of misconduct and removed all but essential employees. Later, some suspected that the diplomats could have experienced “mass hysteria.” A new Canadian study provides a more likely explanation to this mysterious illness that impacted diplomats in Havana: neurotoxic pesticide exposure. Researchers conducted testing on 14 individuals who had resided in Havana and a control group of 12 that had never lived there. Some of the experimental group had been recently exposed while others, tested 19 months after their return, were classified as “remotely exposed.” Tests included brain imaging and self-reported symptom questionnaires. They analyzed blood samples for routine biochemistry, kidney, liver, and metabolic functions. Individuals that showed symptoms of brain injury went […]

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06
Jun

Pesticide Use Kills Off Mosquito Predators Faster than Target Mosquitoes

(Beyond Pesticides, June 6, 2019) Pesticide use eliminates pest predators and permits mosquito populations to flourish, according to research conducted in Costa Rica by scientists at Utah State University. The new study, “Adaptation to agricultural pesticides may allow mosquitoes to avoid predators and colonize novel ecosystems,” highlights the dangers of human intervention through broad scale pesticide applications, and the urgent need to consider ecosystem-wide impacts before allowing chemicals to be placed on the market. As lead study author Edd Hammill, PhD, told National Geographic, the investigation got its start after he observed higher numbers of mosquitoes in orange groves he was visiting, when compared to other, non-agricultural areas. “We felt like we were getting a lot more mosquito bites in plantations than in pristine areas and started to wonder why,” noted Dr. Hammill. The study focuses first on the role that bromeliads, a tropical flowering plant that grows on tree branches, play in affecting mosquito populations. Mosquitoes use the water that these plants catch in between their leaves to lay eggs. Many other species are found to lay eggs within the leaves, including the top-level predator in this system, the damselfly. Dr. Hammill’s team looked at community composition within bromeliad […]

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21
Dec

Blackberry Leaves Decompose to Thwart Mosquito Breeding

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2019) A study at the University of Maine (UMaine) finds that adding blackberry leaf litter in stormwater catch basins creates an “ecological trap,” enticing mosquito females to lay eggs in sites unsuitable for larvae survival. Employing this new and incredibly viable “attract-and-kill’ tool for mosquito control shows potential for preventing the breeding of mosquitoes that may carry insect-borne diseases, especially in urban environments. Stormwater catch basins regularly accumulate leaf litter, which serve as habitat for the mosquito species Culex pipiens (Cx. Pipiens) that may carry West Nile virus. Previous University of Maine research discovered decomposing leaf litter from Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) produces chemical compounds that attracts and stimulates Cx. Pipiens female to oviposit, or lay eggs. Investigating the attractiveness and lethality of varying catch basin conditions to mosquitoes, researchers hypothesized that blackberry leaf litter could be shown to be lethal to developing mosquito larvae, and, therefore, act as a natural ecological trap for Cx. Pipiens. Five varying treatments were applied to a total 50 catch basins. Treatments included (1) all debris dredged weekly throughout the duration of the study, (2) no change to debris naturally occurring in catch basins, (3) […]

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