MY VOICE: Time to protect our long-term health

July 02, 2014 08:42 am

Chemicals invade our lives insidiously and have disastrous cumulative long-term effects on human health and the environment.

Vector control spraying by air is especially invasive. There is no way individuals living in targeted areas and beyond can avoid it. I live just south of the Island City city limits on a small farm where hay was in windrows one Monday evening while a vector control plane sprayed Island City.

I was unaware of that fact when my hay crew arrived Wednesday morning just after the hay had been baled. Almost immediately, the men loading the trailer began suffering serious problems: swelling and welts on the arms, legs, chests, abdomens, swollen faces, eye irritation and reddening and obvious difficulty breathing. We stopped after only about 20 minutes. The men did not have health insurance and declined to go to the emergency room. They went home to shower hoping the symptoms would disappear on their own as they did over the course of the day.

I questioned the person who did the cutting, raking and baling. He had done nothing differently. Two of the affected workers have loaded hay bales for me for years with no ill effects. Something was wrong. I then learned that Island City had done vector control spraying Monday evening. I thought those sprayings were by truck but learned it was by air. I’m less than a quarter mile from the Island City limits.

I learned the cocktail being applied is Dibrom with Naled the primary active ingredient. The Internet gave valuable information about pesticide use and negative long-term effects correlated with exposure. These include most autoimmune diseases including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and also kidney and liver failure years later. The immediate symptoms often mimic flu.

One website was a study of Brevard County, Fla., where Dibrom was used. Evidence indicates that Dibrom exposure leads to genetic and neurological damage, cancer risks as well as liver and kidney damage. Beginning at about four weeks of pregnancy, fetuses enter a period of rapid brain growth, developing 4,000 cells per second. If pregnant mothers are exposed, their unborn child is far more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disabilities, attention deficit and aggressive behavior. The study concludes that earlier studies on Dibrom were inadequate, flawed and showed unequivocal carcinogenicity.

The EPA website reveals that Naled may no longer be used in and around homes by residents or professional applicators although exposure as “bystanders” from wide-area mosquito control was acceptable. It requires the use of enclosed cabs for rural application, forbids human flaggers during application and establishes a 48-hour re-entry interval before workers could return to fields after application. This is in sharp contrast to the information and assurances our vector control officer, Kelly Buhler, offers.

On Wednesday evening, buyers for some of the hay arrived to load their truck. By then, no symptoms were experienced. The next morning, two of the original bale handlers returned and suffered no symptoms. Perhaps the pilot dumped the remainder of its chemicals over my field after finishing Island City. There are no longer any dragonflies around my pond. Dragonflies are just one of nature’s predators for mosquitoes, but they too are killed by Naled.

I contacted Michael Odenthal at the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Lori Gordan with the Environment Protection Agency. Both were helpful and I suggest others call them with concerns involving future spraying.

I recommend a vector control program that protects our long-term health of as well as nature’s mosquito predators.


About the author

Mary McCracken of Island City is an advocate for sustainable, flourishing and diverse environment, economy, democracy and culture.

My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. 

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