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E-M:/ .West Nile pesticide applicators in Boston illegally make claimsnot on the EPA label, much like its done here in Michigan

West Nile pesticide applicators in Boston illegally make claims not on the EPA label, much like its done here in Michigan

Make way pesticide apologists at work!  And no mention of non-pesticide alternatives, imagine that.


Samuel DeFazio
2723 116th Ave
Allegan, MI 49010

8/1/2003 - Boston.com - REGION - Debate swarms around spraying
Mosquitoes' harm is weighed against chemical By Matt Viser, Globe Correspondent,

A small blue pickup truck equipped with a large aerosol spray tank was dispatched to Sudbury and Framingham several times in recent weeks to combat mosquitoes in a season that has been ripe for the pests.

For some, the trucks were a welcomed sign that the insects would be taken care of and the risk of disease would be reduced. But for others, the spraying only brings more environmental concerns.

''I'm not convinced that it's safe,'' said Elise Snow, a Framingham resident who says she's concerned for her 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. ''I just can't imagine spraying pesticides into
the air is a good thing.''

David Henley, superintendent of the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project, says that although the chemical they use to kill the mosquitoes, resmethrin, is classified by the federal Environmental
Protection Agency as ''slightly toxic,'' it is safe in small amounts.

''We're using it at a low level to kill something that has the body weight of a mosquito,'' he said. ''A baby, a person, or a pet is massive in comparison.''

Still, the agency warns residents to go inside and shut their windows if they hear the truck's sirens blaring.

''It's good practice not to get exposed to chemicals and pesticides if you don't need to be,'' Henley says. ''Some literature suggests that people can experience transient symptoms,'' such as headaches
and light-headedness.

Those types of reactions, he adds, are ''an uncommon event'' and happen to only ''a small percentage of the population.''

But the concerns have been enough to raise the eyebrows of several residents, primarily in Framingham.

Cynthia Bailey, a Town Meeting member in Framingham, recently started the Ten Hawks Project to try to raise awareness of the chemicals that are sprayed and how they might affect children. Ten Hawks is the Indian version of her son Nathan's name.

Bailey says she is trying to mobilize concerned mothers and possibly address the issue in an article at Town Meeting.

The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project, which was established in 1945, serves 25 communities west of Boston and is one of nine agencies like it in the state. Locally, the East Middlesex program serves Lincoln, Sudbury, Wayland, and Framingham.

Although the Waltham-based agency is regulated by state guidelines, it is paid for entirely by the municipalities that use it, with money being appropriated each year by Town Meeting in participating cities and towns.

The program allows communities to voluntarily subscribe to different services, based both on the degree of mosquito problems and the size of the town's budget. Prices in the area range widely. Lincoln, which subscribes to the minimal amount of services, paid $10,000 last year.

''What the residents appropriated at Town Meeting was funding for monitoring and ditch maintenance only,'' said Michael Moore, Lincoln's public health administrator. ''But they didn't want any
[pesticides to be sprayed], and that hasn't changed, even after West Nile.''

Mosquitoes have been targeted in the spread of the West Nile virus.

Wayland has asked for spraying to be done only for mosquitoes in their larval stage. The town paid $19,900 for the services last year.

Framingham and Sudbury subscribe to the maximum number of services, where mosquitoes in their adult and larval stages are sprayed. Last year, the towns paid $35,600 and $38,800, respectively.

''We have an extremely high number [of mosquitoes] at times,'' said Robert Leupold, health director in Sudbury. ''A lot of that is because of the large amount of wetlands in town.''

He said they receive several complaints about the spraying each year, but that ''a majority of calls we get are people who want spraying.''

Robert Cooper, Framingham's public health administrator and the one responsible for coordinating the town's mosquito spraying, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Henley says the need for mosquito control has spiked since last year's West Nile scare, and he adds that four towns -- Winchester, Medford, Malden, and Concord -- have started spraying for mosquitoes this year as a direct result.

But others say that the potential risk of spraying pesticides outweighs the possibility of catching the West Nile virus or Eastern equine encephalitis, another disease that can be transmitted through
the blood-sucking insects.

''The risk of West Nile has to be at a certain level before the risks of spraying these chemicals makes it warranted,'' said Heidi Roddis Ricci, senior environmental policy specialist at the Massachusetts
Audubon Society.

''And in most circumstances, such as the situation in Massachusetts, there's no reason to be spraying those chemicals.''

In June, Ricci sent a letter, signed by 28 organizations, asking the state Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board to create more standards for the sprayings and to coordinate with the state Department of Public Heath. The Control Board falls under the auspices of the state Department of Agriculture.

Brad Mitchell, chairman of the Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board, said he has met with Ricci and is preparing a letter that will be sent out in the fall addressing her concerns.

Last year, 23 people in Massachusetts were diagnosed with West Nile virus; three people died. So far this year, eight birds have tested positive for West Nile, including some in Medway, Watertown, and
Weston, according to the state Department of Public Health.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 59 cases of the disease have been found in humans so far this year, none of which were in New England.

Henley says opponents of the program can opt not to have the pesticides sprayed on their property. He estimates that 20 homeowners in each town have abstained.

But Snow, who put her home on that list several weeks ago and instead invested $500 in a Mosquito Magnet, says allowing residents to opt out of the spraying program is not enough.

''If it's impacting the environment, I don't want them spraying my neighbor's house either,'' she said.

There are many who are in support of the annual sprayings.

''Some people have been up in arms about it, but there's absolutely nothing harmful about [the sprayings],'' says William McCarthy of Framingham. ''But no matter what you do, some people are going to be upset, and some are not.''

Matt Viser can be reached at viser@globe.com.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 8/1/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.