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Killing mosquitoes or killing humans?

By Alan Caruba
web posted May 7, 2001

It took me a long time to understand why Greens oppose any and all pesticides. It began with Rachel Carson's diatribe, "Silent Spring", in the 1960's, filled with dire predictions about pesticide use, most of which have long since been proven wrong. By way of just one example, she claimed that DDT spraying could wipe out the US robin population. Instead, it actually increased between 1941 and 1972.

How many people have died from insect-borne diseases because of her book can't even be calculated, but the loss of DDT alone has doomed millions. Dr. Kelvin Kamm, Ph.D. of Pretoria, South Africa noted that "When a Boeing 747 smashes into the ground killing all on board, it makes massive international headlines. But seven of those 747s full of people is the same number of Africans who die every day from malaria and there are no international headlines."

I asked my friend, Joseph M. Conlon of the American Mosquito Control Association for some information about West Nile Fever. He tells me that, in 1999, four States reported 65 cases of the disease and epizootic (epidemic among animals) activity from birds and/or mosquitoes. By the following year, 2000, seventeen States had conducted West Nile Virus surveillance programs.

"The virus appeared to have expanded both north and southward along the eastern seaboard to twelve states in addition to the District of Columbia." Dead birds were found everywhere as the result of the surveillance. "In all, 4,139 dead birds of 76 species from 133 counties in twelve States were found positive for the disease."

One elderly man died from the disease in New Jersey last year. In 1999, seven people died after the outbreak of the disease. There were 62 cases of encephalitis in the New York metropolitan region. The New York Times reported last April that "The virus is believed to have unknowingly infected as many as 1,900 Queens residents."

There were twenty-one confirmed WNL human cases with the onset of the illness in 2000. "Given theoretical subclinical/clinical case ratios, approximately 2,000 humans were thought to have been infected," said Conlon. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control predicts that "widespread WNV epizootic activity probably will persist and expand in the United States, larger outbreaks of WNV infection and human illness are possible if adequate surveillance, prevention activities, and mosquito control are not established and maintained."

To put it plainly, if an intensive mosquito control program is not implemented, people are going to die. What is the response of the Greens?

"The New Jersey Environmental Federation has been successful at trying to persuade county officials to limit the widespread use of pesticides this year, said Jane Nogaki, a federation spokeswoman," reported the Star-Ledger, the State's largest circulation daily newspaper, on April 21.

Greens are always horrified that pesticides are used to control the billions of insects that represent a threat to human life, but rarely express any comparable view that humans will die needlessly when they are deprived of pesticides. A successful war on pesticides has been fought now for decades and resulted in the loss of DDT in 1972. In 1997, nearly 300,000,000 cases of Malaria were reported worldwide, resulting in a death toll that approached 10,000,000.

In 2000, the anti-pesticide campaign of the Greens forced the withdrawal from the market of Dursban, a pesticide used in more than 800 products used to protect the homeowners inside and outside their property. Even a pesticide applied with nothing more toxic than water, Ficam, was forced off the market by the Environmental Protection Agency's demand for new testing. It had been used safely for two decades destroying billions of cockroaches and other pest insect species.

I know about Ficam because I was on the public relations team that introduced it to the nation's pest management professionals back in the 1970's. I have also done PR for other pesticide products and I have always known that I was contributing to a safer environment for humans. It was that experience that got me interested and then concerned about the efforts of Greens to ban every beneficial chemical that protects humans against Nature's most virulent and effective vector of disease. I eventually concluded that Greens saw their battle as the best way to reduce the human population.

William O. Robertson, the director of a poison control center, noting his thirty years experience, said, "I do not recall a single incident of Dursban-caused illness. As a matter of fact, we see very few incidents of poisoning that are symptomatic of any kind of pesticide exposure. But we see lots of children with bee stings and insect bites."

"It would be unfortunate," said Robertson, "if publicity over the Dursban decision resulted in parents being afraid to use insecticides to get rid of insects. The next problem they face could be a serious allergic reaction from insect bites or exposure to cockroach allergens."

The EPA has been the enforcement agency that has pursued the banning of pesticides since its inception in 1970, but even the EPA acknowledged that Dursban products posed no imminent threat to public health and didn't even order a recall of products. Dursban had been used around more than twenty million American homes for years to protect families and pets. It eliminated cockroaches, ticks, fleas, as well as billions of termites and carpenter ants than annually inflict billions in property damage. More than 3,600 reports and studies had examined the safety of Dursban products. That didn't stop the EPA.

All the Agency managed to do is put everyone at further risk. The ban was based on the baseless "precautionary principle" of overexposure through the misuse of the product. The EPA forced the manufacturer of Dursban to withdraw the pesticide. It did so by abandoning the use of human data, using rodent studies instead. So, you can thank a couple of hugely overdosed rats if you get stung this summer or your child develops asthma as the result of cockroach allergens, a major cause of this disease.

If humans aren't a part of the environment worth protecting, why do we even have an Environmental Protection Agency?

In New Jersey, the scare-mongering Greens want to insure the counties who engage in mosquito suppression to take out newspaper advertisements and issue other notices whenever they schedule large-scale spraying. "Notification is critical to warn people so they can at least take precautions, said Jane Nogaki, the pesticide program coordinator for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. Greens know that notifying people creates anxiety and even panic among people who should be far more worried about the spread of West Nile Fever, but they don't care. This is not about protecting humans, it's about eliminating them.

Apparently more valuable than a human being
Apparently more valuable than a human being

A year ago, the EPA is reviewing the status of yet another excellent pesticide, Malathion, widely used to suppress the mosquito population in States where they threaten to spread West Nile Fever. The EPA claim, once again, is that Malathion has the "potential" to cause cancer. If successful, there will be one less pesticide. We will probably never know how many countless victims would result. And all because the Greens would rather see you dead.

Without proper action, West Nile Fever will achieve the same status of Lyme disease. Since 1980, the CDC, using very narrow definitions of this debilitating disease that causes neurologic, cardiac, musculoskeletal, and ophthalmologic programs, has identified 150,000 cases, but one actuarial study indicates that the actual number is closer to two million, costing society over one billion dollars every year.

Other tick-borne disorders include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, and human monocytic enrlichiosis. Ticks are currently under investigation as possible vectors of a West Nile-like virus.

Lyme disease will be back with a vengeance this spring and summer. In New Jersey, there were 1,722 reported cases in 1999. Its carriers include deer of which there are an estimated 170,000 in the Garden State. Countless thousands exist in other Northeastern States. Birds, squirrels and mice are other carriers.

Mosquitos are carriers of malaria, yellow fever, filariasis, dengue fever, and encelphalitis, in addition to West Nile Fever. There are 2,960 species known around the world with 169 species recorded in North America. New species continue to be introduced to America as international travel expands.

The three major genera are Aedes, Culex and Culiseta. Culex Pipiens L. is probably the most widespread mosquito species in North America. It breeds continuously during the summer and is known to fly up to a distance of l4 miles from its breeding site.

Which do you want? The mosquitoes or the spraying necessary to kill them? The ticks or the spraying necessary to kill them? The fleas or the pesticides needed to kill them? The cockroaches or the pesticides needed to kill them?

Alan Caruba, a veteran business and science writer, is founder of The National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about scare campaigns. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.anxietycenter.com. © Alan Caruba, 2001

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Spare the pests. Kill the people! by Alan Caruba (June 12, 2000)
    Millions around the world die because of pests every year, yet the EPA announces a recall of Dursban. Alan Caruba wants to know the scientific reason for the move

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