Inmates, mosquitoes and pesticides
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.