Inmates, mosquitoes and pesticides

As far as mosquito pesticide spraying is concerned, the “cure” is becoming worse than the disease.

Over the weekend the headline story on the front page of the Tribune was an article about mosquitoes swarming the newly relocated Utah State Prison in the Northwest Quadrant and making life miserable for inmates, staff and visiting family members. UPHE warned of this reality early on. Legislators were warned there was no solution to this before they decided to move the prison there, but of course they ignored the warnings. Even a dried up Great Salt Lake is still a mosquito haven.

Prison officials and legislators think that all they need to do is spray more pesticides, but of course, that launches a chemical arms race. Predictably, pressure is being applied to conduct even more pesticide spraying, which is exactly what is happening, although it does little good, even in the short term. Studies suggest that repeated spraying is even counterproductive over time, breeding resistance in the mosquitoes and even increasing their number and their biting aggressiveness. The mosquito abatement district knows this is not a solvable problem, but they succumb to the pressure and are spraying more often, and a larger area.

The article quotes UPHE, “Dr. Brian Moench, pres­id­ent and founder of Utah Phys­i­cians for a Healthy Envir­on­ment, said des­pite assur­ance from mos­quito abate­ment offi­cials and the Envir­on­mental Pro­tec­tion Agency, dir­ect expos­ure to pesti­cides can have neg­at­ive impacts on both people and anim­als, and that spray­ing pesti­cides from planes increases the chances it will drift bey­ond its tar­get and expose oth­ers.

The idea that we could have ever cre­ated a sub­stance that can select­ively attack pests that we don’t like, but it will leave every­body else unaf­fected— that was never sci­en­tific­ally legit­im­ate,” Moench argued.

UPHE has advoc­ated for abate­ment dis­tricts to stop spray­ing aer­ial adulticides alto­gether, say­ing expos­ure, espe­cially to fetuses and infants, can lead to neur­o­lo­gical and brain dis­orders and is more harm­ful than the West Nile virus or both­er­some bites that spray­ing aims to con­trol.

“I would say that if you fol­lowed that prison pop­u­la­tion that is chron­ic­ally exposed, you’re going to find what other stud­ies have found — that is higher rates of neuro­de­gen­er­at­ive dis­eases in adults, things like Par­kin­son’s, Alzheimer’s, clin­ical memory loss, poor cog­ni­tion,” Moench said. 

He said he’s particularly worried about pregnant inmates or staff.”

That the EPA has “approved” these pesticides means absolutely nothing about their safety.  The EPA has a long history of protecting the chemical industry, instead of the public from the chemical industry.  The organophosphate pesticides used by the mosquito abatement district have been banned in Europe, because unlike the EPA, they take these health hazards seriously.  The EPA has approved 85 pesticides banned in other countries.

UPHE will keep fighting this battle until science, not habit, tradition, or wishful thinking wins out.  Spraying pesticides to control mosquitoes does more harm than good in controlling mosquitoes, does virtually nothing to limit the spread of West Nile Virus, and exposes everyone, including children and pregnant mothers, repeatedly to neurotoxins proven to cause brain damage at low doses.

Read the full Salt Lake Tribune article here.