Failed experiments over Sac

Paul Schramski is the state director of Pesticide Watch and the Pesticide Watch Education Fund, public-health and environmental groups based in Sacramento

When I was in high-school chemistry class, I learned how quickly experiments can go awry. Add too much of this or not enough of that and the whole solution is ruined.

Sacramento County has become a bad science experiment for the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Vector Control District. In recent weeks, the district fast-tracked unproven and unsafe pesticides that were sprayed over 375,000 residents to kill adult mosquitoes.

The district previously sprayed pesticides aerially in Davis in 2006 and in Sacramento in 2005.

Many decades ago, we learned about the dangers of pesticides like DDT. Just this week, a new report was released, linking autism to organochlorine exposure. We should pay attention to those lessons.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that it is illegal to call these pesticides safe. These pesticides are, in fact, toxic by design. The pesticide product sprayed this past week, Evergreen 60-6, is composed of pyrethrin and PBO. You’ve probably heard the line that these pesticides are from chrysanthemums. It’s true, they are derived from a plant—but so are cigarettes.

Short-term symptoms of mosquito pesticide poisoning include rashes, nausea and dizziness. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the long-term or cumulative effects because they are untested. Even worse, a third of the product is made up of so-called inerts—other undisclosed ingredients—that don’t have to be tested or listed by the manufacturer.

Common sense tells us that we should use the safest possible mosquito controls. For decades, the SYMVCD has used effective non-chemical controls to stop the spread of infected mosquito larvae. Scientific literature has done little to support the case for large-scale spraying. Aerial spraying is just a Band-Aid solution.

There are few places to voice concerns about pesticide spraying. While the MVCD is made up of people appointed from every city in Sacramento and Yolo counties, most of these members consistently have ignored public outcry. And why should they care? We have no say. Neither does the Sacramento City Council.

While West Nile virus is a disease of concern, the solutions for controlling it should do more good than harm. Solutions to stop the spread of the disease should go to the source, be safe, and local residents should have a voice in the handling of health concerns.