Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rebuttal to Mercury's article 7/11/14

See the Mercury News article, Click HERE  

Below is the rebuttal posted in comments to the Mercury article online:  

I’d like to know which test Vector used when they “identified that…. West Nile Virus had struck again”?   From my research, there are 2 types of tests that Vector uses.  The first test simply identifies IF the bird had an immune response to WNV in it’s lifetime.  This does NOT imply the cause of death, as birds like humans can have the disease and never have any symptoms, but will show positive to a test for WNV antibodies after the first infection.   The second test shows if there is an active infection of WNV in the bird. However, this still does not imply cause of death.  As with influenza, when some people get very sick, it’s not due to the flu virus, but to secondary infections that are often due to weakened immune systems.  In the case of birds, their immune systems are weakened by pesticides.  Isn’t that a catch 22?  
The very thing Vector is using because of “infected birds” is actually causing the birds deaths and likely, NOT the WNV that they are “suspicious” of.   Pesticides can kill 72 million or more birds per year.  A New York study found that common household pesticides were responsible for more bird deaths than WNV.  Pesticides are the 4th highest cause of bird deaths after high-tension wires, feral cats, and flying into windows.  

So, the “infected” bird count is higher this year.  Does that really mean that the rate of infection among humans will go up too?  Or is it actually an indication that the WNV is becoming endemic here?  Meaning,  more and more birds (like humans too) will have a mild infection and then will carry the antibodies to WNV for the rest of their lives.  Then, is it the constant pesticide exposure (exacerbated in a drought by less water availability and more concentrated lawn and mosquito pesticides in the water) that is really killing the birds?  

It is not right to make assumptions about the cause of bird deaths to justify spending County parcel tax funds to spray toxic pyrethroid (synthetic nerve toxin) pesticides on private homes, gardens, pets, and even people.  Parman from Vector states that only 1% of mosquitoes are infected with WNV.  If the infection rate in the vector (mosquitoes) is that low, how can finding just 1 mosquito justify fogging 1000s of people?   And, we are given no choice in protecting our families, as Vector does NOT allow opting-out.

Yes indeed Santa Clara County does stand out among the neighboring counties.  It seems our Vector Control spends more of our parcel tax funds on fogging (which has been shown to be ineffective at controlling the spread of WNV by a Harvard study) than on stopping the breeding of mosquitoes to begin with.   When was the last time you read anything from the County telling you to remove standing water every week, or advising you to ask for free mosquito fish for unused pools and ponds?  These are the proven methods for stopping the mosquito breeding cycle,  by stopping the mosquito larvae which take 7 days in standing water to become adults.  

And as Robert nicely stated in his comment, fogging actually increases the mosquitoes.  Not only does it kill natural predators and is ineffective at controlling mosquito populations, but also pyrethroid pesticides are known to create resistance in mosquitoes.  Just like there are bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, Vector is creating resistance in mosquitoes from the frequent unnecessary foggings.    The foggings only kill the few adult mosquitoes  that happen to fly into the fog.  The type of mosquitoes that carry WNV are active at dusk and dawn, so why would Vector fog at 11pm-3am when most of the targets are hiding in bushes and will not get killed by the fog?  In fact when we looked at the pre-fogging mosquito counts that Vector supplied from last year and this year, even if the mosquito count went down after a fogging, then next pre-fog count was much higher than the ones before.  This means the adult population is continuing to increase, because it is not effectively controlled by killing adults.  Vector needs to focus on killing mosquito larvae, by clearing standing water.

I’d like to see the proof that Parman bases his claim that “in 30 years of fogging, there hasn't been a documented case of the spray harming anyone”.   In fact, the EPA only approved this particular pesticide, Zenivex E4 with the pyrethroid Etofenprox, in 2008 for use as ULV adulticide.   Maybe he’s referring to malathion spraying from the 80s?  I know there were documented cases of harm from malathion.  What about all the scientific studies that show that pesticides are harmful to our health?  The label for Zenivex even states “Hazardous to humans and domestic animals”.  Parman’s quote seems very misleading.

I would also like to see the proof that Parman has based this quote  on, "It's not known for knocking out anything bigger than a housefly".  The product label states that it is toxic to bees.  Bees are clearly bigger than a housefly.  Parman also said to me during a phone conversation, that it would kill a bee if it flew into the fog.   Isn’t the County held accountable for telling residents the truth about a chemical that is being forced on us?  Plus Parman told me on the phone that “there is no residue, because it’s Ultra Low Volume”.  However, the County Department of Environmental Health Manager Jim Blamey told me that there IS a residue and that they don’t measure post-fogging residue toxicity, because they believe that the manufacturer claims it’s safe.  However, even at ULV application rates, the residue is likely still a sub-lethal dose for bees.  The pesticide has a half-life of 4.5 days (time it takes for half of it to degrade).  And it is known that it takes 3 half-lives to degrade completely.  So, the pesticide persists for 2 weeks.  Since a bee can visit 1000s of flowers in a day, in less than 10 days after a fogging, a bee can get a sub-lethal dose that would disable it from flying back to the hive.

The current statistics of WNV infection in humans simply do NOT justify the use of an ineffective, toxic pesticide fogged all over residents.  There are NO human cases of WNV in Santa Clara County this year, and only 2 cases last year.  Yes, many cases may go unidentified BECAUSE for 99% of the people it is a very mild infection.   Parman says that "Even its mild form averages 16 days off work", but that doesn’t make sense if most people who get infected never have symptoms or have mild symptoms like a cold or flu.  

The choice to expose yourself should be that, a choice, but since Vector does not make much of an effort to inform the residents of the foggings, we lose the ability to make that choice.  Further, Parman states in his email and website announcements about upcoming fogging dates, that “Generally, residents do not need to take any special precautions before or after the fogging.”  This lacks the necessary information for making an informed choice.  County should be obligated to give the name of the pesticide product and active ingredient, as well as a warning for special populations with access to more information if residents want to protect themselves or their families and pets.  The special populations include: babies, pregnant and nursing women, those with liver dysfunction and immune-compromised. Babies are vulnerable to pyrethroid pesticides as the toxin is broken down in the liver and babies’ livers are not fully developed.  Pregnant and nursing mothers would want to make an informed choice as the pesticide passes from mother to child via placenta and mother’s milk.  And, those with liver dysfunction or who are immune-compromised, would not be able to break down the pesticide.  Parman stated that mammals detoxify the pesticide.  However, these tests by the manufacturer were done on rodents in isolation, not on humans living in a toxic environment that would put a greater stress on the liver to breakdown not just a single toxin but a combination.