Our regular readers will be forgiven if they are stricken with a case of deja vu right now.
Over the past year, ACSH has weighed in often (and in no uncertain terms) about the foolishness of rejecting mosquito eradication programs in populated areas.
Fortunately, ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, with the aid of his good friend Jim Capuono, who nearly died from West Nile encephalitis in 2012, were able to get the government of Ocean Beach, a small Long Island beach community, to overturn a decades-old policy of refusing to participate in the Suffolk County mosquito control program.
The story was made into a video, which explains the entire situation, pointing out one of the real risks of chemophobia a mindless rejection of all chemicals based on the myth that we are continuously being bathed in, and poisoned by them. Lost in the argument are the risks of not using chemicals, such as pesticides, when appropriate and necessary.
It seems that Sacramento, CA may be on the way to learning this same lesson the hard way. Opposition to mosquito control is springing up much as it did in Ocean beach. The arguments are always the same.
In this case, an article in the Sacramento Bee will no doubt scare people unnecessarily, and if there is any single thing we at ACSH can tell you, it s that when public health policy is based on fear and faulty science, everyone loses.
Edward Ortiz, the author of the piece, writes: The spray used to kill adult mosquitoes often contains pyrethroids and organophosphates. Both kinds of chemicals have produced health effects on laboratory animals, and studies have implicated the chemicals in lower IQ scores when babies are exposed to them in the womb.
Right away, says Dr. Bloom, a couple of red flags went up. He continues, You cannot lump different insecticides together, simply because they kill bugs. For example, pyrethroids (Anvil, for example) are neurotoxic in insects because they do not have the physiological mechanism for clearing the chemical from their bodies. Humans do. This is why pyrethroids are so safe.
In an opinion piece, entitled Environmentalists Almost Killed My Friend, which appeared on the mega-blog Science 2.0, Dr. Bloom s points out as good an example of misplaced fear as you ll ever see. He demonstrates that not only is Anvil less toxic that DEET (mosquito repellent), but DEET is sprayed on your body, and is readily absorbed into the blood. And Anvil is sprayed on the bugs. Something a little odd here? We think so.
He takes it one step further, showing how the toxicity category of Anvil is identical to that of SAND especially ironic, since Ocean Beach, as the name implies, is a beach community.
If this sound nuts, it s because it is. Yet, Sacramento may be moving in the same direction fear based public policy.
But, at least someone out there gets it.
Bruce Hammock, professor in the Entomology & Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Davis really nails it: It s a common societal problem that we want benefit without risk. He also says, I m immune-suppressed, so if I get West Nile, I m dead.
And, now there is another variable to toss into the mix. For the first time, mosquitoes infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) something you do NOT want to get have been found in Massachusetts.
Although the current threat to public health is negligible, the virus is disseminated by infected birds, and can therefore be widely spread. Thirty-three percent (!) of those infected healthy people, not those with compromised immune systems will die. There is no vaccine or treatment.
ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: There are none so blind as those who will not see. An oldie but still true: too much opinion and too little thought here, as is often the case, when committed ideologues believe they know more about public health than experts. If Sacramento is trying to become susceptible to preventable contagions like West Nile, this is the way to go. Analogous to the newly-recurrent epidemics of childhood diseases such as measles, avoiding hypothetical or minuscule risks, pesticide-induced decline in IQ (based on an extremely flawed study), often leads to real dangers and real sickness and death.
For a science based evaluation of pesticides, see ACSH s publication here.