West Nile Virus And The
Scourge Of Pesticides

By Brenda Livingston

As more of the public becomes informed, it is becoming all too clear that there is no comparison between the number of human cases resulting from West Nile Virus and the vast human cost of spraying toxins into the air we breathe. In addition to the irreparable harm done to adults and children and the environment, spraying pesticides simply does not work.
As the West Nile virus was found in a few birds in Dallas and the first human cases of the virus has been identified in North Texas, the debate in about the effectiveness of pesticides and their toxic effects on humans and wildlife has begun once again...and more people are getting involved.
Dallas Public Health and environmental officials have sprayed pesticides in the Dallas area over the last couple of weeks after the discovery of 3 persons (all recovering) testing positive for the West Nile Virus. Though limiting the ground spraying to affected areas this year, adequate warnings about the dangers associated with exposure to pesticides have not been shared with the public.
Officials in cities all over the country have approved ground spraying and even aerial spraying (with and without public knowledge or approval) of potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment in which we live, work and play. Investigations are now underway to expose covert spraying operations and to organize opposition to these kinds of spraying efforts.
David Jefferson and others in the environmental management office for the Tarrant County (Fort Worth Texas) Public Health Department have vocalized concerns about the overuse of pesticides and has applied a far more effective approach to handling the mosquito population.
"Spraying toxins in the air upon the population with such low yield results...even with 1 case of human WNV identified in that county is not being recommended or applied in this county. Ground and aerial spraying only eliminates the adult insects in contact with the pesticide."
Along with many other health experts, Jefferson agrees that larval control and elimination of breeding grounds is a much more effective -- and safe -- approach to lowering risk (which is already minimal) of human contraction of West Nile Virus.
One thing is for sure--cancer, brain and neurological damage, behavioral and reproductive problems will result in a significant cross section of the population if we allow the continued and unwarranted use of pesticides in agriculture, our homes, our schools and most significantly that being sprayed in the air throughout our communities. Research now shows that even those pesticides with less toxic effects (such as Pyrethroids) will have devastating effects upon children and adults.
Excerpted From a Center For Disease Control FAQ:
"Q. If I live in an area where birds or mosquitoes with West Nile virus have been reported and a mosquito bites me, am I likely to get sick?
A. No. Even in areas where mosquitoes do carry the virus, very few mosquitoes"much less than 1%"are infected. If the mosquito is infected, less than 1% of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances you will become severely ill from any one mosquito bite are extremely small.
The risk to contract West Nile Virus encephalitis is extremely small 1 in 300,000 people and affects only those with impaired immunity.
"Based upon experience, we know that typically less than one tenth of one percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes develop any clinical signs of disease, and of those who do develop disease symptoms, most do not develop the serious encephalitis manifestations.." Michael Gochfeld, Professor of Environmental and Community Medicine, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
WHY -- if there is such a small risk of humans getting infected from mosquitos that have such a small risk of contracting the West Nile Virus from infected birds-- are we allowing our officials to put us at such great risk of suffering from the horrible effects of pesticide exposure?
One has to wonder why the information about the harmful effects of pesticides are not more prominent in the news and why spraying is instituted without any calculation of the devastation that is caused by it. Risks and benefits must be weighed very carefully with an informed public at the helm.
Consider the Following:
The UN report continues: "Ironically the very 'defense' against West Nile Virus is making birds and humans far more susceptible to this virus and other viruses and bacterial infections.
There are well known safe approaches that can be used to control mosquitoes and prevent West Nile Virus.Apart from such well known measures, the best protection against West NileVirus encephalitis is a healthy immune system. Exposure to pesticides is now recognized to be detrimental to human as well as animal health and all immune systems.
Spraying pesticides (aerially or on the ground) poses much more danger to public health, especially to children, than the extremely small health presented by West Nile Virus."
A 1996 study found that in experiments of human white blood cells (white blood cells are the back-bone of our immune system) that malathion was causing "deletions" in one section of the chromosome.
The scientists stated, "This work provides the first evidence of an association between malathion exposure and specific mutations in human T lymphocytes."
...Your lymphoctes are a type of immune system cell which is extremely important in removing viruses and cancer cells from the body. ...The lesson to be learned from this is we do not want to expose ourselves to chemicals (such as malathion) that can accelerate gene loss in important cells which are protecting us from bacteria, viruses, etc.
Genetics Laboratory, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont CANCER RESEARCH, 56, 2393-2399, May 15, 1996
We know, however, that chemical pesticides and other pollutants cause acute and especially delayed health consequences such as allergy, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, genetic damage, cancer, concentration and memory problems, loss of potency and libido, and many other health problems."
The National Research Council states that: "Infants and children, whose immature nervous systems are vulnerable, and newborns, whose metabolisms are less capable of detoxifying malathion, are more susceptible than adults to its toxic effects." [Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. National Academy Press. Washington D.C.]
There is also a link between exposure to pesticides, and Parkinson's Disease, breast cancer, lymphoma and certain cases of Alzheimer's Disease.
From "Child's Exposure to Pesticides Hikes Lymphoma Risk" posted on CHEC FORUM November 10, 2001 (by Chive Mynde)
"Children who have been exposed to household insecticides and professional extermination methods within the home are three to seven times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) compared with children who have not been exposed to pesticides. ...)
"Pesticide Exposures in Children with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma," Jonathan D Buckley M.B.B.S., Ph.D., Anna T. Meadows, M.D., Marshall E. Kadin, M.D, Michelle M. Le Beau, Ph.D., Stuart Siegel, M.D., and Leslie L. Robison, Ph.D., CANCER 2000; 89:11.
Researchers at Southwestern Medical School (University of Texas Health Science Center) Robert Haley and Tom Kurt in Dallas, Texas have found that a substantial number of veterans exposed to sprayed pesticides (to control mosquitos and sandflies), DEET (as a repellent) and a substance used to lessen the effects of nerve poisoning in the Gulf War are suffering devastating effects.
The implications are staggering for the general population as a whole who are exposed to these substances.
The study states:
"The culprit gene is the one that controls production of type Q paraoxonase, or PON-Q, an enzyme that allows the body to fight off chemical toxins by destroying them. This particular enzyme is highly specific for the chemical nerve agents sarin and soman as well as for the common pesticide diazinon.
In some people, the gene causes the body to produce high levels of PON-Q, allowing their bodies to fight off toxins like nerve gas. But in others the gene directs the production of low levels of PON-Q, meaning a person cannot fight off even low levels of these toxic chemicals well."
Organophosphate pesticides have chemical structure similar to nerve agents and have the potential of becoming highly toxic for normal individuals if misused or mixed with other pesticides or chemicals.
All this to say that it seems clear that massive spraying for West Nile Fever or simply for mosquito control will harm children and adults who have this low enzyme level and stimulate this painful, debilitating and deadly disease in those with a genetic predisposition to it.
And, unless this West Nile outbreak becomes a full scale epidemic -- spraying will likely be the cause of great long-term suffering for thousands -- with no appreciable effects on the carriers of West Nile. Not only can massive spraying of pesticides cause GWS/environmental disease -- it will undoubtedly increased the suffering of those who already suffer from it.
See the following site for details and information on more studies:
By EPA's working definition, endocrine disruptors "interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis (normal cell metabolism), reproduction, development, and/or behavior."
The Pyrethroids (Scourge-resmethrin and Anvil- sumithrin) both used in mosquito spraying in an ineffective attempt to control West Nile Virus -- have been shown to interfere with the immune and endocrine systems. Adverse chronic effects, including effects on the liver and thyroid, have been reported in toxicology testing.
According to toxicologists, animal tests showed that chronic exposure to resmethrin could increase thyroid weight and cause thyroid cysts. In animal studies, it was found that in addition to a variety of other health effects, exposure to pyrethroids can suppress both the thyroid's T4 and T3 levels, and raise Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels.
According to researchers writing in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, "immense care is warranted in the use of insecticides, because they not only affect the liver, kidney and other organs but also may alter the activity of the endocrine glands." (J Appl Toxicol 1996 Sep-Oct;16(5):397-400)
A multidisciplinary group of international experts gathered for a work session on Environmental Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Neural, Endocrine and Behavioral Efects" under the auspices of the International School of Ethology at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice, Sicily, November 5-10, 1995.
Consensus Report...
"Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can undermine neurological and behavioral development...This loss of potential in humans and wildlife is expressed as behavioral and physical abnormalities. It may be expressed as reduced intellectual capacity and social adaptability, as impaired responsiveness to environmental demands, or in a variety of other functional guises.
... Interference with thyroid hormone function during development leads to abnormalities in brain and behavioral development ...motor dysfunction of varying severity including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hydrocephalus, seizures and other permanent neurological abnormalities.
Similarly, exposure to man-made chemicals during early development can impair motor function, spatial perception, learning, memory, auditory development, fine motor coordination, balance, and attentional processes; in severe cases, mental retardation may result...."
In an article distributed by the Environmental News Service, Cat Lazaroff tells of massive deaths of birds due to pesticides (no doubt the spraying for West Nile produced many of these deaths):
"Last year, prompted by concern about the spread of West Nile Virus, New York State asked counties to report dead birds to its wildlife pathology laboratory. After receiving more than 80,000 birds, Dr. Ward Stone discovered that while the virus was a factor in some of the deaths, the leading cause was pesticide poisoning. Common lawn care chemicals were among the most common toxins."
American Bird Conservancy states: "Spraying pesticides in urban and suburban areas does little to reduce the spread of West Nile Virus, is extremely harmful to birds and may also harm the humans it is intended to protect."
Run-off from spraying from a variety of sources including ground and aerially vector spraying has had devastating effects upon aquafers, water supplies from lakes and rivers and aquatic life. Huge lobster and fish deaths were reportedly resulting from the massive ground and aerial spraying of the pesticide Anvil in New York and eastern areas.
Malathion, Scourge, Anvil and other pesticides should NEVER be sprayed near water or areas that could flow into aquifers or water resources -- streams, rivers, lakes. Human water supplies and fish and wildlife are at great risk of contamination.
It is important to note that airborn or ground pesticide spraying does little to actually erraticate mosquitos. Larval control and eliminating breeding grounds (places with stagnant pools of water) are much more effective means for controlling mosquitos.
Beware of products containing pesticides --including product containing DEET--found in many products being used to ward off mosquitos. Many of the tests in developing pesticides are based upon the effects upon a healthy adult male and any exposure to a child can be hazardous.
Avoid insecticides and herbicides around the house and yard. Combinations of common pesticides and fungicides can be much more potent and produce unsafe effects not exhibited by products used alone.
Many schools have already adopted a "No Pesticide Use" policy on school grounds and limit the types of chemicals used within the buildings.
**Extremely important: It has been proven that mixtures in the air can increase the toxic effects of commonly used pesticides by 100 or even a 1000 times. Combinations of aerial spraying of pesticides and insecticides/ herbicides and some types of fungicides can produce toxic levels that increase the risks over single exposures.
Consumers Union's Pesticide Policy Reform Project whose goal was to draw a roadmap for a long-term transition -- is making "biologically based" (rather than toxic chemical based) Integrated Pest Management the central focus of national pest management policy and investment patterns. While current IPM plans call for reducing the use of pesticides, elimination and replacement with non-harmful regimens must be the ultimate goal to ensure public health and safety.
As the research continues (that which has not been suppressed), we are finding that pesticides are one of the most critical issues deciding our and our children's future.
Public response to this issue is a vital key to public health. Armed with good information, we can rally together, inform others and our local officials and the press that we will not tolerate this unnecessary and deadly exposure to chemical toxins. .
It is our responsibility to share the facts and assist our city councils, public health officials, parks and environmental workers in making the safest choices in dealing with West Nile Virus and other health concerns.
Can we afford not to heed the warnings? It is now becoming most clear that we have more to fear from the WNV "cure" than the disease itself. It is now becoming imperative that we no longer allow unwarranted, ineffective and highly dangerous pesticide use around our homes, schools, public parks and water resources and environment.
For More Information About Pesticides And Their Harmful Effects See:



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