Just hours before planes contracted for mosquito spraying were to take off, the Massachusett chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association appealed to the state to halt plans for aerial spraying of 21 communities in southeastern Massachusetts. That plan was to use Anvil, a synthetic pyrethroid containing the active ingredient Sumithrin, and Piperonyl Butoxide, a synergist, says Jack Kittredge, policy director of NOFA/Mass. The state's Department of Public Health announced the spraying out of concern for potential mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
There are more effective and healthful ways to prevent outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, contends Kittridge. "Prevention and biological controls are both safer and more effective than spraying toxins on the general public." (The spraying would be done at night to limit public and beneficial insect exposure.)
Kittridge notes, the product is toxic to fish and bees, and isn't approved for use on food crops, fodder crops, or pasture and grazing areas. According to the DPH, surface drinking water supplies, certified organic farms, fish hatcheries and endangered species habitats would be exempted from the sprayed areas.
Even so, the group argues that broad, non-specific application of a poison can have larger consequences that pose more health dangers than it combats. Spraying will kill mosquitoes – and also their predators: fish, birds, spiders, dragonflies and other insects. But the predators won't come back as quickly as the mosquitoes, they argue, altering the balance of nature for the rest of 2012.
"And those new mosquitoes may evolve a resistance to pyrethroids," he adds. "Should we have a hot, wet August, September and October, at what price have we eliminated our natural allies in disease control?"
NOFA reports that human side effects of synthetic pyrethroids are hyperexcitability, prostration, slow respiration, nausea, cramps, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, tremor, ataxia, unconsciousness and paralysis. Sumithrin is an endocrine disruptor which increases estrogen levels in the body. PBO has been classified by U.S. EPA as a carcinogen, they add.