Alibi V.24 No.14 • April 2-8, 2015 

Opinion

Pesticides Are Weapons of Mass Destruction

Photo by Jonrhanna
Spraying for mosquitoes is an antiquated method, but it's still in use in some areas. When I started working in the pest control business in 1969—before there was an Environmental Protection Agency—we did a lot of needless spraying. We used to spray the baseboards in a home to kill cockroaches; that was ridiculous because cockroaches don’t normally run along baseboards. When I asked my supervisor why we sprayed baseboards, he told me that we had to kill time in customers' homes so they believed that they were getting their money's worth. That was true then, and it is still true now. Some pest control companies still spray baseboards, and mosquito spraying is the same thing.

When I worked in Houston, Texas, in 1975, the city hired pest companies to spray pesticides for mosquitoes. We were instructed to spray in the early evening before people went to bed, so they could see that the city was taking care of the mosquito problem. It was all about image, and nothing more. Research published recently in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal supports the theory that children whose mothers are exposed to some pesticides during pregnancy may be at increased risk for autism spectrum disorders, aka ASD.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis reviewed the medical records of 970 participants. They found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of an area treated with three different types of pesticides were at a two-thirds higher risk of having a child with ASD or developmental delays. These pesticide-treated areas included parks, golf courses, pastures and roadsides. This would include spraying for mosquitoes. These researchers also concluded that pregnant women should not enter buildings where pesticides are sprayed. The most widely used pesticides in the industry are synthetic pyrethroids, and that pesticide is one of the three pesticides tested. This study discovered that women exposed to pesticides during their second or third trimesters were even more likely to have a child born with developmental delays or autism. These findings add to the mounting evidence linking autism and developmental delays to pesticide exposure during pregnancy.

Spraying for mosquitoes kills beneficial insects like bees, kills any birds that can't get away and endangers all animals outside during the spraying. Spraying chases any bats out of the area, and a single bat eats up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects per hour or up to 8,000 insects each night. Why would we want to scare off bats?

Rodenticides are just as bad as synthetic liquid pesticides. When you poison a rodent, you could be endangering your pets and yourself. When animals die, any resident fleas leave the dead animal and search for another animal to bite, and that animal could be a pet or a human. Of all the fleas found in New Mexico (107 species at latest count), approximately one-third are capable of carrying the plague. The most common species of plague flea is Oropsylla montanus, and it infests the following mammals: ground squirrels, pack rats, deer mice (Peromyscus spp.), kangaroo rats, field mice (Reithrodontomys spp.), rabbits, raccoons and skunks. It is also found on carnivores that eat these animals.

When I asked my supervisor why we sprayed baseboards, he told me that we had to kill time in customers' homes so they believed that they were getting their money's worth.

Ground squirrels can carry up to 13 species of fleas, several of whom carry the plague. Rabbits can carry 21 species of fleas, and several of these species can carry the plague. Pack rats can carry 34 species of fleas, and some of them are known to carry the plague. Deer mice can carry up to 36 species of fleas, and several species can carry the plague and Hantavirus. Pack rats and deer mice should be trapped—not poisoned. If you set traps, check them frequently. If a pest company wants to use rodenticides, tell them no—that you prefer they set traps. If they don't want to use traps, call another company.

Spraying for mosquitoes kills beneficial insects like bees, kills any birds that can't get away and endangers all animals outside during the spraying. [It also] chases any bats out of the area, and a single bat eats up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects per hour or up to 8,000 insects each night.

Pesticides are almost never necessary for effective pest control. If pesticides in liquid or aerosol format must be used, they should be used only in cracks, crevices and voids where pests hide. They should never be broadcast-sprayed.

I am the IPM Program Manager for the city of Santa Fe, and we don't allow pesticides to be used on any city property or in city buildings, unless it is approved by me. And it never is. Rodenticides are not permitted, and we would never spray for mosquitoes. We use larvicides for mosquitoes and educate the public on what they can do to discourage mosquitoes on their property. I also still have the Bugman's Bug Club and will help anyone with a pest problem. If you want to join the Bug Club, visit my website at askthebugman.com.