CDC summary on adverse effects of mosquito control efforts

March 10th, 2004

To Whom it May Concern,

This report has just come to my attention and I wished to offer belated information concerning this clearly inaccurate summary, since the problems remain pertinent. As municipalities continue to use pesticides (both larvicides and adulticides), there is absolutely no organized attempt to collect data concerning poisoning risks to the public and accounts of adverse effects. Active resistance to the collection of reports of adverse effects is also present, making medical verification of reported illnesses impossible.

During the summer of 2002, I was residing in Auburndale, Queens County (New York City) in a two family house. My “block” was treated with sumethrin twice during a six week period in August/Sept and a nearby park was also treated via broadcast spraying during this same period with high levels of drift resulting. I have pre-existing conditions making avoidance of insecticide a critical need and was away during two of the three application times. However, adverse effects were noted upon my return, 48 hours post spraying.

In the state of NY alone, no physician of my acquaintance in practice or in ERs was required to report adverse effects. In fact, toxicological findings which might have confirmed related illnesses were not even possible to obtain as no labs in NYS had permits to analyze bodily fluids for the specific insecticidal products used. Further, advance notification of applications were extremely difficulty to receive unless one called the particular city office in charge several times per day. Radio announcements were only made a couple of times on the day of treatments and likely heard by few. When I would learn of impending treatments, I would notify my neighbors who all professed ignorance. This purposeful downplaying of the widespread application of poisonous material led to the vast majority of persons leaving open their doors and windows during treatments, being out on the streets in the wake of fresh applications and, for those sickened, did not allow them to inform their physicians of having had a recent exposure. This means the vast majority of any adverse reactions were inevitably going to be misdiagnosed as asthma events, flu, perhaps food poisoning etc.

When I called poison control on two of these three occasions when spraying was performed in my neighborhood, to report breathing problems and neurological complaints, those collecting such data were highly resistent to taking the information and I have no way to know if my complaints ever entered any data system. Certainly, I had no objective testing to corroborate my complaint as none could be performed.

It is urgent that the CDC mandate states practicing mosquito control to do the following:

1. Health Departments must disseminate booklets or texts to all licensed health care providers on the identification and treatment of insecticide intoxication. Both acute and chronic health effects are well documented in the literature and indeed, appear on the product labels for many of these chemicals.

2. Continuing education courses in toxicology in states practicing mosquito control using chemical means must be mandatory. The average physician has less than six hours of toxicology training and is ill prepared to deal with such adverse events. Shamefully, most will not even take the time to make the appropriate inquiries when presented with suspicious cases.

3. All states practicing mosquito control must issue permits, without charge, to approved laboratories which can objectively assess blood and urine for these chemicals and their metabolites, allowing objective verification of adverse events. To avoid conflicts of interest, such laboratories should not be dependent upon an individual state health department for their certification renewals (i.e. out of state laboratories should be permitted to process patient samples).

4. A national reporting system must be implemented since localities have been shown to under-report adverse events since the first onset of municipal spraying in N.Y. in 1999.

5. Various health departments throughout the country vary widely in the information disseminated concerning the dangers of exposure to insecticides. Some have been quite accurate while statements issued by others constituted clear medical malpractice – e.g. no dangers exist even for pregnant women who are directly sprayed etc. Federal guidelines are essential to prevent localities from keeping the true risks from their residents to avoid liability.

6. Evidence collected from private toxicological samplings in selected urban environments post WNV spraying indicated a very long half life for residues. In NY, soil and house dust samples were still positive for the chemicals a year post application. The CDC must organize a program for the mandatory testing of public areas and the voluntary testing of private property for a true portrait of the resulting contamination and its longevity. Ongoing monitoring of persons chronically exposed to areas positive for such residues is also indicated. No assertions regarding the safety of mosquito contol practices can be taken seriously in the absence of such studies.

The benefits of WNV control practices are expected to outweigh their risks but, to date, there is no actual proof of this claim due to inadequate monitoring, obstructive policies for reporting/verifying adverse events and widespread physician ignorance.

Your conclusions are premature and demand stronger investigation for the health of the nation.

Thank you for your attention.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: CDC

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