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Utah nonprofit calls for an end to spray-based mosquito abatement in the Salt Lake Valley

Break From Bugs
Posted at 11:52 AM, Apr 13, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The nonprofit group Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is calling for the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District to discontinue the practice of spraying insecticides to reduce the mosquito population.

A lengthy report on UPHE's website concludes that the use of "adulticide" sprays, which are made to kill adult mosquitoes, is ineffective and can be counterproductive to controlling mosquito populations and preventing the spread of the West Nile virus.

"Furthermore, the medical literature strongly indicates that routine aerial spraying over Salt Lake City’s airshed represents a broad-based danger to public health," the report says.

SLCMAD refutes the claims.

"In regards to risk and safety of mosquito control pesticides and practices, a direct quote from CDC’s West Nile Virus in the United States: Guidelines for Surveillance, Prevention, and Control states that “Insecticides to control larval and adult mosquitoes are registered specifically for that use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instructions provided on the product labels prescribe the required application and use parameters, and must be carefully followed. Properly applied, these products do not negatively affect human health or the environment," a statement from SLCMAD says. (Scroll down to read the full statement.)

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UPHE's report cites research that found children born to mothers who lived near areas where aerial mosquito abatement measures are used are 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism or a developmental delay than children from areas that don't have aerial mosquito abatement services.

Last month, SLCMAD announced a proposal to collaborate with the U.S. Air Force in aerial mosquito abatement. Under the proposal, the Air Force would deploy a low-flying C-130 to spray pesticides over large stretches of wetlands near the Salt Lake City International Airport in September.

The proposal, if followed, would give the opportunity for the Air Force to train pilots on flying at low altitudes and let SLCMAD save money by taking advantage of the Air Force's free service.

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"At any one moment in time, between 40,000 and 50,000 women are pregnant in the state of Utah, many thousands of them will be exposed to some degree to known neurologic poisons from this aerial spraying proposal during the most critical stages of embryologic and fetal development. It has been universal advice from obstetricians for many years that their patients avoid any unnecessary pharmaceuticals, chemical exposures, and other contaminants to protect the integrity of fetal development, and that axiom certainly applies to pesticides," UPHE's report says.

The report says numerous health professionals and medical organizations have made statements linking exposure to chemicals such as the ones found in pesticides can be linked tobesity, cancer, heart disease, birth defects, reproductive pathology, and neurologic and brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, impaired intellect, autism and attention deficit disorder.

Members of UPHE's board are expected to hold a virtual press conference Wednesday to discuss the findings outlined in the report.

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Statement from the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District:

SLCMAD has historically utilized the latest science and information available to make informed decisions about mosquito surveillance and control measures utilizing an integrated approach for the protection of public health and enhancement of quality of life. All of these measures are within full compliance of regulatory laws and fully supported by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/mosquitoes/mosquito-control/index.html). A joint statement on mosquito control in the United States by the EPA and CDC may be found here as well: https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/joint-statement-mosquito-control-united-states

In regards to risk and safety of mosquito control pesticides and practices, a direct quote from CDC’s West Nile Virus in the United States: Guidelines for Surveillance, Prevention, and Control states that “Insecticides to control larval and adult mosquitoes are registered specifically for that use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instructions provided on the product labels prescribe the required application and use parameters, and must be carefully followed. Properly applied, these products do not negatively affect human health or the environment. Research has demonstrated that ULV application of mosquito control adulticides did not produce detectable exposure or increases in asthma events in persons living in treated areas (Karpati et al. 2004, Currier et al. 2005, Duprey et al. 2008). The risks from WNV demonstrably exceed the risks from mosquito control practices (Davis and Peterson 2008, Macedo et al. 2010, Peterson et al. 2006)”. That document may be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/resources/pdfs/wnvGuidelines.pdf

In regards to controlling adult mosquitoes, additional information is provided by the EPA (https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/controlling-adult-mosquitoes) and also the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/vectorcontrol/aerial-spraying.html).

Given our current experience with COVID-19, demonstrating the fundamental importance of making public-health decisions based on the best science, it is important to ensure that our essential service of mosquito control continues for the protection of public health and enhancement of quality of life for all residents of Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, UPHE’s position does not reflect the current weight of scientific evidence about the risks from treatments for mosquitoes and mosquito-transmitted diseases.