Letter: More Facts for the Vote on Mosquito Control


On Thursday May 5th, at Upton’s Annual Town Meeting, the town’s people are to decide whether or not we should consider joining the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project. Two articles have already been presented by the BOH from the perspective of the Project. Simply put, CMMCP is a biased program contracted out by towns looking to make profit. I write this now to provide a counter perspective based in unbiased facts and science for why Upton should NOT join. I also urge the Board of Health to consider the science below.

In Overview this is not an effective program for mosquito borne illness prevention, this program puts public safety and environmental health at risk, and is not good way to spend town funds.

Here’s why.
One of the reasons this issue is even being raised again is the Zika virus. However on the Mass.gov’s own website (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/cdc/factsheets/v-z/zika-factsheet.pdf) you can plainly see that the state is only concerned about people travelling from Massachusetts to South America, and are NOT concerned that Zika could be contracted from Massachusetts backyards, calling it “EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.”
3 years ago this article came up at the Town meeting and the town overwhelmingly voted AGAINST joining this program. We saved upwards of $100,000 and not a single person suffered from a mosquito borne illness in Upton, in that time.

Second – and MOST importantly, there is a misconception that as stated by the Board of Health in the first pro joining the Mosquito control program article they put out published on April 20th, that, ” Spraying for mosquito control is only used in extreme cases where the state of Massachusetts determines that the risk of disease to humans, pets and livestock is so high that only spraying will protect the citizens of Massachusetts.” This is extremely FALSE. They have since updated these claims in their second article.

In fact Nuisance spraying is the MAJORITY of what the Central Mass Project does. From the 2015 REPORT on the Massgov’s website: Zero cases, of EEE or WNV were present in the Central Mass district in 2015″. YET almost 16,000 requests were placed for spraying, were reported in the report. These were from people complaining about mosquito nuisance.

Why should we pay for people’s mosquito nuisance complaints?

Click to access 2015-aor-central.pdf

CMMP claims they do a lot of education, but in their annual report if you break it down it is only about 1 presentation per town. Towns could do their own education for MUCH less money and of a higher quality. CMMCP also stress their Tire collection, yet in many towns they collected zero tires. It would be much more effective and cheaper for towns to collect old tires where mosquitoes breed.

But isn’t spraying effective at preventing mosquito borne illness? NO it is not. The Center for Disease Control and Prevetion state that spraying is the “least effective mosquito control technique.” And In a study conducted this year by Cornell University’s, Dr. David Pimentel PhD and professor emeritus of entomology, less than .0001% of adulticides (mosquito insecticides) reach target adult mosquitoes. “Thus by both aerial and ground application, 99.999% of the insecticides used are simply spread into the environment without ever targeting adult mosquitoes.

One must also consider the Human Health risks of these sprays: CMMCP uses the insecticides “Anvil”, “Zenivex” , “Suspend” , and “Mavrik” – these are synthetic pyrethroids. Health effects from pyrethroids include: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, rash, itching, or blisters. Long term effects: disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females. In human males, its estrogenizing (feminizing) effects include lowered sperm counts. In both, it can lead to the abnormal growth of breast tissue, leading to development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissue in both male and females. Neurotoxic effects include: tremors, in-coordination, elevated body temperature, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults.

Other: A known carcinogen. There is evidence that pyrethroids harm the thyroid gland. Causes chromosomal damage in hamsters and mice; deformities in amphibians; blood abnormalities in birds. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=785&tid=153
So let’s weigh this out rationally. Zero cases of EEE, Zika, and West Nile Virus in 2015 in Central Massachusetts. And most years, EXTREMELY low numbers (under 10 cases in the entire state.) Now let’s look at Cancer. In 2015 there were 30,790 NEW confirmed, yes NEW cases in Massachusetts alone. If you do the math there are about 6 million people in Mass. There are about 8,000 living in Upton. This means there are roughly 41 people just last year who got diagnosed with cancer.

Click to access caff2005f4pwsecuredpdf.pdf

So tell me if the risk of exposing the whole town to these toxic chemicals is worth the .0001 % chance that any of them are actually targeting the very few mosquitoes that might be carrying a mosquito borne illness?

The Audubon society, who are experts on all things ecology, list a myriad of reasons they are against nuisance spraying. They site reasons like disruption to ecology, and high death counts of beneficial bees, butterflies, other pollinators, furthermore it kills the natural predators that help manage mosquito population naturally, like fish, frogs, and other wildlife.

Furthermore they state:

“Some of the districts engage in nuisance control pesticide spraying and other activities not recommended by Department of Public Health. Fundamental reform of legislation governing mosquito control in Massachusetts is needed to update the programs and make them consistent with the best available public health based operating standards.
Once a community joins a mosquito control district, it delegates mosquito control activities to the district.

If your community is a member of a mosquito district, we recommend that you request that the district voluntarily limit itself to the actions called for in the DPH plan, and that no wetland ditching or draining or nuisance control pesticide applications be conducted.” Please read more here: http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/advocacy/priority-legislation/mosquitoes/position-on-mosquito-control

Unfortunately once a town joins the CMMCP, you sign up for the entire project and can not pick and choose what you want done. You are signing over jurisdiction.

Finally, this is from a pamphlet from the Mendon Board of Health, and still the most proven prevention methods :

Personal protection effectively reduces the risk of mosquito bites.
Consider staying indoors or in a screened in porch at dawn and dusk and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when outdoors with infants. Apply insect repellant. Testing performed by the EPA indicates that repellents containing DEET are effective and safe when applied following the manufacturer’s instructions.
If an herbal spray is preferred, the EPA recommends EPA-registered repellants containing the active ingredient Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (or PMD). Pure oil of lemon eucalyptus has not been found as effective.

Spray clothing with repellents, since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. (Read all repellent labels for warnings, especially with regards to children. Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children.)
Encourage natural predators like bats which can consume up to 1,200 mosquitoes a day! also indigenous fish like bluegills and minnows.

Thank you for reading and considering these Facts and Science when making an informed decision on Thursday, May 5th. Our community’s health and the environment are very important as we advance forward into a bright future working together towards a Sustainable Upton. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1669539636635991/

Lara Wahl


1 Comment

  1. Thank you very much, Lara, for writing this article. As always, the most effective way to protect oneself is to use proven personal prevention methods as you stated in your article.

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