Pesticide Findings Raise
By NICK BUGLIONE
Testimony from city health officials in a
U.S. District Court case has revealed that the state has been testing for traces of city
sprayed pesticide in Queens bodies of water where it could be deadly to aquatic life, and
found it in Alley Pond Park.
"Were in the process of
investigating what occurred at Alley Park," said Nina Habib Spencer, a spokesperson
for the DEC, which monitors all wetlands and is requiring pre- and post-spraying tests to
be conducted on other sensitive ecological areas and water bodies in Queens, and
throughout the state.
"The Health Department
has found very low levels of sumithrin (Anvils active ingredient) in Alley Pond
Park," said John Gadd, a spokesman for the DOH. "The Health Department is
monitoring a sample of ponds to look for whether there have been any effects."
Traces of the pesticide Anvil, used this year to kill
mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus, have been found in the water of Alley Pond.
Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
The DOH told a U.S. District judge
that the aquatic wildlife has not been immediately affected by the pesticides
presence. The U.S. District Court is currently hearing a case filed by environmentalists
seeking the cessation of neighborhood spraying.
"There was no evidence of any affect on fish and fish
would be the most sensitive," Gadd said.
The city sprayed the park as part of its
campaign campaign to eliminate mosquitoes that might carry the dreaded West Nile virus,
yet it is unknown how the pesticide contaminated the water.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
spokeswoman Nina Habib Spencer said that application of Anvil directly to bodies of water
is a violation of the pesticides label, as the substance is extremely toxic to
Spraying trucks like this one used last year have distributed Anvil throughout Queens
in recent months.
Tribune Photo By Tamara Hartman
Due to its toxicity to fish, Anvil is
not supposed to be sprayed within 100 feet of any body of water. "We have no reason
to believe that any of the applicants did not adhere to those buffer zones," said
Habib Spencer, noting that the pesticide could have been carried into the water by the
wind, or by runoff.
William Nieter, president of the Alley Pond
Environmental Center (APEC) and director of environmental studies at St. Johns
University, said he was unaware that health department officials were even testing the
waters inside the park, and was surprised to hear of the presence of Anvil in them.
Nieter also said he was disappointed he
wasnt directly notified, hearing only of the situation through news reports of the
"Its disturbing to hear that
they discovered this and then will only share it with a judge in a hearing," said
Nieter. "We are requesting their information, whatever information they have, should
be shared with us."
VICTIMS OF THE BUG BATTLE
While city and state
officials continue to reaffirm the paramount importance of pesticides in the fight against
the West Nile virus, environmentalists from within APEC have long been against the
They maintain that the toxic spray kills
not only disease carriers but also beneficial insects necessary to the ecological cycle.
"On ecological grounds, its
really a poor decision," said Nieter. "Spraying should only be done under
emergency situations when theres a serious health risk. We have not seen that this
Reports from workers inside APEC
demonstrate that there has been a noticeable decrease in the past year of moths,
butterflies and other wildlife inside Alley Pond Park.
Nieter also contends that spraying can pose
a threat to humans. "There are people in the population that do have sensitivity to
chemicals and pesticides and they should not be exposed to this arbitrarily," he
Some members of the community concur with
Nieters views on the spraying. "A pesticide is out to kill whether it kills
gently or in one full blow," said Sabina Cardali, a 38-year resident of College
Point. "I dont think the people involved in this did their homework."
"This spraying, in my opinion, is
bad," said Hedy Sirdofsky, who lives near the park. "It seems it is doing more
harm than good."
The EPA, the department
responsible for registering and testing all pesticides, regards Anvil as relatively safe
According to Habib Spencer, when a company
wishes to produce a new pesticide, the EPA must first test it with regard to the
substances affect on humans, wildlife and the environment. Its potential usefulness
is also taken into account.
"Many pesticides that are approved for use can be
highly toxic," she said, "but may break down very quickly when exposed to
Upon determining the pesticides
toxicity, the EPA gives the substance a ranking on a scale of one to four, one being the
most toxic and four being the least.
"Anvil rates a three, which means that
its moderately toxic," said Habib Spencer. Anvil, produced by Clarke Mosquito
Control, the company also responsible for its spraying, is categorized as a pyrethroid, a
group of substances that are essentially a synthesis of pesticides that occur naturally.
Its active ingredient, sumithrin, affects
the nervous system of the pest that its designed to killin this case the
mosquitowhich ultimately shuts down the insects respiratory system.
"Its not particularly toxic to
birds, it is not generally toxic to mammals," said Habib Spencer, however she did
note that certain "non-target" species of insects, like butterflies can be
Habib Spencer went on to note that although
its not considered harmful to humans, large doses of Anvil can cause health
problems, even death, in humans.
"In very high doses there are many
chemicals that will have significant health affects," she said, adding that the
amount of Anvil recommended to be sprayed per square mile .0036 pounds is
too low to significantly pose a threat to humans.
However, the inhalation of sprayed Anvil
can cause skin and eye irritation as well as respiratory complications, especially to
those who are asthmatic or sensitive to chemicals.
For that reason, Habib Spencer said
its imperative that the community receive adequate and accurate notification
regarding times when spraying will occur.
Some local residents have
charged that spraying notification has been eratic at best, and in some cases,
"I personally didnt know about
it," said Priya Singla, a Douglaston resident. "I dont think we got any
notification for the spraying."
Amy Sheu, a 22-year resident of Douglaston
agreed, stating, "We didnt know when they were going to spray."
The EPA recommends that anyone who has come
in direct contact with the substance wash the affected area immediately. Anyone suffering
from respiratory conditions or experiencing adverse reactions to the pesticide should
contact their doctor immediately or call the New York City Poison Control Center at (212)
Isadora Murphy contributed to