First, Do No Harm
First, Do No Harm
A recent press release from the SYMVCD stated
that the material sprayed into our air supposedly to control the
vectors of West Nile virus was such a slight amount, less than 1
ounce per acre, that it could do no harm. This would be quite
in keeping with the famous medical ethic, "First, Do No Harm."
There's one slight problem however -- the statement is not quite
accurate in its implications for total safety. Vector control
and public health officials have made the statement many times,
including before the Sacramento City Council, as we discuss in The Safe-Dose Myth. There is
additional discussion of this important issue in Dose
Considerations, and please note that "the dose makes the
poison" is old dogma.
Acute Effects Can Be Deadly:
One ounce of the pesticide can kill a small child. Of course
in order to kill the child outright that child would have to drink
most of that ounce. And it would seem very unlikely that a
small child would manage to drink the entirety of the acre's worth
of insecticide raining out of the air. There would be enough to kill
two small children if it were painted over their skin, but it would
be equally difficult to imagine two children covering themselves
with an acre's worth of insecticide raining out of the air. If
that ounce were put in an inhaler it would kill several children,
but raining out of the air for three days is nothing near the same.
So it would seem unlikely that SYMVCD would be
killing children outright with their aerial insecticide spray.
It is important to note, however, that pesticide safety testing is
done on individual pesticides and not on the combination of
pesticides to which we are all exposed. They can have
cumulative effects, as is noted by Dr. LeStourgeon of Vanderbilt
University in The Safe-Dose Myth.
So, what if some of those small children had been fed avocado
sandwiches at lunch? Avocados are allowed to contain up to 6
ppm organophosphate insecticide often applied to commercial
avocados. What if they finished lunch with an apple that
contained an equal portion of organochlorine insecticide and then
had played in the front yard where mommy or daddy had sprayed
glyphosate herbicide? And what if they had recently developed
allergic sensitivity to the household insecticides similar to the
aerial spray? What if those children were asthmatic? And
is drop-dead toxicity really the only possible harm?
Sub-acute Effects Are Non-trivial:
There are in fact many sub-acute harms that could arise from
exposure to the insecticide formula SYMVCD sprayed over the
residential neighborhoods of Sacramento. PB0, which
constitutes 60% of the material, increases the
toxic effects of a broad range of poisons the children might
be exposed to aside from the pyrethrum in the aerial spray.
This includes the sub-acute effects of chronic exposure to all those
same materials. That means that the increase in cases of
autism and ADD that are already occurring due to the exposure of
children to organochlorine insecticides will only be
increased. PBO and pyrethrum are both known to induce asthma
on chronic exposure which is already epidemic in area
children. That same PBO interferes with the enzymatic control
of estrogen hormone. Glyphosate herbicide mimics
estrogen. Pyrethrum also mimics estrogen. And the
synthetic pyrethroid chemicals have been shown to furnish the
proliferation of breast cancer cell lines in the same fashion as
hormone replacement therapy. None of these diseases can be
considered trivial or harmless.
Aerosolized Pesticides Can Trigger
California Department Of Health Services estimated the number of
people in a recent year (2003) in Yolo County with asthma at
23,000 (17,000 adults and 6,000 children).
Along these lines Washington, DC
officials noted the high asthma rate in their area and said
pesticides can trigger asthma and aggravate respiratory
conditions, even with broadcast
aerosol applications of pesticides at night. In
addition to scientific research that demonstrates that adulticiding
is not effective in slowing the transmission of WNv to humans, this
health risk was a key reason behind the DC officials policy not to
Pesticide Application Has
Unintended Consequences: There are a number of
unintended consequences from pesticide spraying. Pesticides
can suppress the immune system, making it harder to fight off WNv
infection. Pesticides also kill the natural mosquito
predators, some of whom have a much longer recovery period, and
mosquitoes sprayed with pesticides can become more aggressive and
bite more before they die. And we certainly should try to
discover if the use of pesticides contributes to the widespread
colony collapse disorder in honeybee colonies, vital to many crops
for their pollination. Finally, we once again note that research has shown that the PBO in the
current mix in 2005 doubled the toxicity of pesticides already
existing in local creek sediments from general urban pesticide
SYMVCD Still Has No Evidence of
Efficacy: When two other inconvenient details are
considered the whole question of risk seems a moot point.
First, there is no conclusive evidence that this spray protocol does
any more than a temporary slight reduction in the risk of acquiring
West Nile virus. Second, the risk of exposure to West Nile
virus has been declining, as would be expected after first
introduction, to a very much smaller number. Last year (2010) there was less than
one reported infection per hundred thousand population in
Sacramento County. This includes non symptomatic
blood donors. Note that in 2005 the rate was greater than 15
per 100,000. It can be expected to decline to an even lower
number in future seasons due to the increased rates of immunity in
the bird population. As much as those who sell insecticides
would like you to believe that West Nile virus is the last great
plague of the world, this is not so. Any further expenditures
on insecticidal spray are not just a waste of money but are an
unnecessary risk to human health and the environment.
Note that SYMVCD had no
evidence that aerial spraying was effective at slowing the
transmission of WNv to humans when they sprayed Sacramento in the
summer of 2005, and they still have no evidence. Indeed,
the situation is now even worse in that they are touting their fatally flawed 2005 experiment as
evidence, showing at the very least that they either do not
understand what constitutes solid evidence or they do not consider
solid evidence to be important in developing public policy. With the
extremely weak items they have offered as
evidence, at the same time ignoring the scientific evidence to the contrary, concerned
citizens must ask why this practice continues.
Further References about Dose and
the Adage 'the Dose Makes the Poison' Can Be Toxic to Corporate
"the dose make the poison?"
all things poison? Rethinking safety standards for low doses of
to Update Environmental Regulations: Should public health
standards for endocrine-disrupting compounds be based upon
sixteenth century dogma or modern endocrinology?
Doesn’t Always Make Poison.