Alewife Study Group > other Alewife events > Nov. 20 2000, Toxics Action Center - meeting notes Search 

Pesticide spraying for West Nile Virus.

Notes from meeting of November 20 2000.
(see also meeting announcement)

The information below is excerpted from a mailing list message sent Nov. 27 2000.
The omitted parts of the message deal with activities of the group sending the message, rather than notes from the meeting.
In addition to excerpting, some typographical errors have been corrected - also, because the Alewife Study Group receives visitors from outside of the Cambridge area and to help searching within this website, some abbreviations have been spelled out.
(Women's Community Cancer Project was a sponsor for the meeting).

Prof. Krimsky showed a video about the spraying from NYC to Cox & others. They had no clue.

Kim from Toxics Action Center on the JP (Jamaica Plain) experience: There was no official meeting in JP before the Board of Health decided to spray. They sprayed one hour within finding a dead bird! There is no overall plan around West Nile Virus (WNV). For example, thereís no education around people dealing with mosquito larvae--how many of us even know when they're around?

The State of MA dictates to localities. They should be approached. Notification was a mess in Cambridge. It didnít work. The aged & very young both are most vulnerable to the sprays. Mikeís report on the City: The Council seemed surprised that no-one was pro-spray. They held 2 meetings this summer, the 2nd was one day AFTER the spraying. People with kids were livid about the spraying. Public health professionals David Oznoff (Boston University School of Public Health) & Paul Epstein are uncertain about the efficacy of praying. Mosquitos live about one month & take 10 days to incubate. Public Healthís concern is for statistical chances of contagion among groups, individuals are not taken into the equation. The inerts (highly toxic ďinertĒ ingredients of the pesticide mixes, which make up a large percentage of the whole) were never discussed.ďThe Department of ReassuranceĒ = Department of Public Health! If no-one complains, they wonít do anything. They respond to public scares.

Open Discussion on Public Health Department, Cambridge:
Public Health Department wants to be seen as doing something. Let them harness Cambridge activist energy by undertaking a public education campaign about backyard stagnant water, etc. People thought this was a good suggestion. Ricki Lacey, public health nurse, was one of the five people responsible for deciding to spray and she didnít know anything about the adverse health effects of the sprays.
Children & Families Protection Act would be a good precedent for the Health Department to look at.

Precautionary Principle Meeting Report:
Head toxicologist at State level of Public Health; Bill Brown, Brown University health sociologist; Harold Cox, Director Cambridge Pub Health Department; Sam Lipson, Environmental honcho at same; Ellie Goldberg, Green CAP (Citizens for Alternatives to Pesticides, Newton; Clean Water people; David Ozinoff, Boston University, who said: ďItís a neurotoxin.Ē But also neither advocated spraying nor not spraying. Head toxicologist at State level questioned the CDCís ruling that when you see a dead bird within 2 miles radiu, you spray. Wiser to assess mosquito level, not dead birds. There were Qís about WNV risk: low infectivity of WNV & most people have no symptoms and actually become immune, according to CDC!!

Only a tiny percentage have any symptoms, of these a minscule proportion become ill and of the 7 individuals who died over the two-years of this, how many were already immune-compromised, ill, and how old were they?
Prof. Krimsky on health hazards of pesticides emphasized that no-one is an expert on this and that everyone only has a sliver of the data. He spoke to Theo Colburn, high-profile scientist & author of best-seller on neurotoxicity & hormone-disruption of chemicals, Our Stolen Future. Colburn, dubbed by the media as ďa second Rachel Carson,Ē was very concerned about the inert in the resmethrin sprays, piperonyl butoxide. Sheís known itís been very bad for years. In high concentrations it causes:
* liver tumors in mice
* Itís an endocrine disruptor.
* Lymphocytes are affected by it, so the immune systemcould be affected.
We donít know the risks of WNV. Zero cases in Massachussetts. We donít know what resmethrin breaks down into in the body. They donít know what it breaks down to if a kid gets it on his hands.

Ann on health hazards of resmethrin/pythethroids:
Ann summarized some studies showing carcinogencity & neurotoxicity, including the cotton workers in Georgia who became so ill from exposure to pyrethroids of which resmethrin (used here) is one. Mike said the Health Department discounts all these studies & calls them out of date.

Sarahís report on the Newton Meeting:
Newton got an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) thru but then sprayed in the end. Green Decade, Newtonís years-old environmental group, educates people. They have a good 30-minute video. The 1st 10 minutes are on the hazards of the pesticides. Diane Dumonowski (co-author with Theo Colborn) is on it.

The Toxics Action Center (
and the Women's Community Cancer Project
and the Cambridge Citizens for Alternatives to Pesticides ( then click on Cambridge Citizens for Alternative to Pesticides)
are not affiliated with the Alewife Study Group