Starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday and continuing through 5 a.m. Thursday, Nassau County will be aerial spraying to control mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.
And what will they be spraying, you ask? Well, according to the Nassau County Department of Health, the substance being sprayed is called “Scourge”: a pesticide containing resmethrin and piperonyl butoxide.
That’s right: Scourge.
Why are they doing this? Officials say there has been more viral activity in mosquitoes this year, as evidenced by positive samples found in 49 traps. Furthermore, health officials say there have been two cases of West Nile Virus in the county this year.
Meanwhile, Nassau County has the second highest rate of breast cancer incidence and breast cancer mortality in New York State, according to the National Cancer Institute. (The highest, in both categories, is Suffolk County.)
And, according to Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a Port Washington-based environmental health nonprofit, all the main components of resmethrin have been identified by either the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Toxicology Program (NTP) or the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as likely, probable or possible human carcinogens.
Don’t be scared, though! According to the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), these sprayings “do not require relocating or taking special precautions.”
However, they subsequently recommend that: “Individuals, especially pregnant women and children, should remain inside during the spraying and for about 30 minutes afterwards.”
Furthermore, according to Bayer Environmental Science—the manufacturers of Scourge—if you are in the presence of the insecticide, you should: “Keep out of reach of children. Hazard to humans and domestic animals. This pesticide is highly toxic to fish.”
It is also “harmful if absorbed through skin” and “harmful if swallowed.”
So maybe you should be scared?
You should definitely be aware, and active.
The Nassau County Department of Health recommends the following:
• Keeping windows and doors shut, setting air conditioners to re-circulate if able. Turn window fans off.
• Keeping children’s toys indoors.
• Keeping pets indoors, as well as their food, water dishes and toys.
• Covering fishponds during the spray period.
And all that is important. But it’s not everything. What they don’t tell you is:
• Keeping windows and doors shut may not be enough—you should also cover and seal your windows and air conditioners with plastic. Use the “recirculating air” setting for a few hours after spraying occurs.
• Irrigate your lawn.
• Spray off any outdoor surfaces that may have been affected—decks, patios, lawn furniture, etc.
• Remove shoes before entering the house.
• Cover vegetable gardens with lightweight tarps or plastic sheeting.
• Putting your car in the garage or wash it off if it is outdoors during the spraying.
“The public deserves to be fully informed about the pesticide product being used in an attempt to reduce the mosquito population,” says Wood. “I understand the enormous pressure on the Department of Health to take action when we have human cases of the [West Nile] virus, but the widespread use of pesticides is not without risks and has yet to be proven effective. I’m especially concerned that many people don’t even know about the spraying and won’t take any precautions at all.”
Says Laura Weinberg, president of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, “We really do not know what safe exposure levels are for these chemicals. The public must take precautionary measures to avoid exposure and reduce risk.”
The pesticide plane will spray areas between the New York City line to the Suffolk County line from Route 25A to Sunrise Highway. East of the Wantagh State Parkway, the spraying will target areas north of the Southern State Parkway and east of Route 107, spraying will be conducted south of Route 25.
Interested parties can call the West Nile Virus Spray Hotline at 1-888-844-8657. (Maybe you’ll have better luck than we did if/when you reach them.)