Does your community spray toxic pesticides for mosquitoes? In a well-intentioned but ill-informed attempt to prevent mosquito-borne illness such as West Nile virus, many communities spray insecticides (adulticides) designed to kill flying mosquitoes. If your community is one of these, then your public officials need to know that there is a better, more-effective, way to prevent mosquito breeding.
Organophosphates, which include malathion (Fyfanon), naled (Dibrom), and chlorpyrifos (Mosquitomist), are highly toxic pesticides that affect the central nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. Symptoms of poisoning in humans include: numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness, incontinence, convulsions, and death. Some organophosphates have been linked to birth defects and cancer. Breakdown times range from a few days to several months, depending on conditions.
Mosquito spraying also hurts the environment. Naled, an organophosphate commonly used for mosquito control, affects a variety of non-target animals, including fish, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and honey bees. Naled is moderately acutely toxic to mammals, moderately to very highly toxic to freshwater fish and birds, highly toxic to honey bees, and very highly toxic to freshwater aquatic invertebrates, and estuarine fish and invertebrates. Elevated mortality rates among honey bees have been documented after nighttime aerial ULV applications of naled. Average yield of honey per hive is significantly lower in exposed hives.
Synthetic pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish and honey bees, even in low doses. Beneficial insects, including mosquito predators like dragonflies, will be killed by synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates.
In addition to the dangers, adulticiding is usually the least effective mosquito control method.
Preventing the problem. Beyond Pesticides offers resources for managing mosquitoes and mosquito-borne disease without the use of toxic pesticides. A better mosquito management plan protects public health and the environment. There are steps that can be taken to eliminate breeding sites around homes and buildings, and throughout the community. For example:
Local public policy is key to long-term solutions. Outbreaks of disease-carrying mosquitoes often result from habitat disturbance, such as deforestation, impairing wetlands, and spraying insecticides. Restoring the health of ecosystems helps keep mosquitoes under control. Native minnows, for example, can provide effective control of mosquito larvae breeding in standing water.