Sunday, April 6, 2008

Proposed Mosquito Plan Will Spray Pedestrians


The Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) has proposed a new mosquito control plan that is expected to reduce the frequency of insecticide spraying in neighborhoods however the policy also will allow drivers to leave the spray running in the presence of pedestrians, and will take away the option for homeowners to exempt their properties from direct spraying. Prior MPHD policies allowed citizens to opt out even when there were diseased mosquitoes or human cases of West Nile virus in the past. They also required drivers to shut off the spray when pedestrians were present but drivers frequently did not comply. Citizens reported violations and adverse effects however Health officials took no action against the drivers. By 2005, two civil lawsuits had been filed against Metro for injuries sustained by a Donelson man (2003) and a lawn care crew in East Nashville (2004).

Following four years of organized citizen protest about the MPHD’s spraying standards and practices, Metro Council enacted an ordinance last August (BL2007-1389) sponsored by Councilwomen Brenda Gilmore and Pam Murray. The ordinance states, “…spray truck drivers or other staff shall turn off the spray and verbally warn pedestrians or residents visible on streets or yards, and not resume spraying within approximately three hundred feet of such pedestrians or residents.” The law also allows buffers for those who opt their properties out and contains a clause allowing the director to forego all mandates when there is “a public health threat.”

The new MPHD Mosquito Control Program Plan, developed in response to the Metro Council ordinance, was presented and open for public comment until March 18. 146 citizens responded to express their concerns for public and individual safety, including a number of health care professionals and local scientists. Former Metro Councilwoman Brenda Gilmore also wrote to express her concern that policy did not comply with the spirit of the law. In a written response to public comments the MPHD states, “There is no requirement on the product label to shut off the spraying when pedestrians are noticed.” The department claims that it will spray only when there is a documented threat to public health therefore they feel they are exempt from the ordinance.

Karl Meyer, who has observed spray truck drivers spray pedestrians in 2003 and 2006 in his Fisk Park neighborhood, said, “It should be simple common sense not to expose pedestrians to pesticides. The law allows them to resume spraying after pedestrians are out of harm’s way but it is cheaper and easier for the Health Department to spray these people and their properties, and to deny them an opt-out.”

Rachel Sumner, a citizen who suffers from allergic reactions to pesticides herself, stated, “Homeowner opt-out and pedestrian protections should be retained whenever spraying occurs, in order to protect individuals who have allergies, respiratory problems and other health conditions that can cause dangerous reactions to pesticide exposure.” (According to Health Department records obtained through open records laws in March 2008, 900 properties are currently opted out.)

The new plan will be presented for final approval at the monthly Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 4:00PM at the Lentz Public Health Center, 311 23rd Avenue North. Concerned citizens will attend the meeting and ask the board to amend the policy or defer the vote and require the MPHD to revise the policy.

Adulticiding … “The revised policy of MPHD shall be to spray for adult mosquitoes ONLY when a documented threat to public health exists. Adulticide application will be considered at the level of CDC [federal Centers for Disease Control] risk category 3. In prior years, the threshold for spraying was in CDC risk category 2. Based on prior documented risk, the department expects thresholds for spraying to be rarely, if ever, met, and for spraying to be a rare event.” …
(Our note: The statement above referring to thresholds in the past is misleading. In 2003 and 2004, the threshold was CDC risk category 3 – citizens were still allowed to opt out at these levels. MPHD records reveal that staff rarely followed their protocol and never sprayed some areas with disease during both years. Despite these failures, no one else got WNV. After finding only 5 positive mosquito pools in 2004, the MPHD lowered the threshold to level 2 in 2005 – requiring 100 mosquitoes without disease to spray. In 2006, they reduced the threshold to 35 female Culex mosquitoes - MPHD records reveal staff sprayed a number of times with less than 35 mosquitoes.)

“3. Citizens choice and maintenance of opt-out option when spraying
Because MPHD will spray for adult mosquitoes only when there is a documented threat to public health, MPHD is exempt from the application of Metropolitan Code of Laws 10.32.180.” …

“14. Spraying protocol when pedestrians are noticed
Every effort will be made to notify the public about a scheduled spraying event. These efforts have been expanded to include signs and notification through cell phones. Since spraying will only be conducted when there is evidence of sustained West Nile virus activity, the completeness and efficiency of the spraying event are important. There is no requirement on the product label to shut off spraying when pedestrians are noticed.” (Emphasis is ours)
ORDINANCE BL. 2007-1389 link


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