March Panel to Examine Dangers of Summertime Mosquito Spraying

Health officials in Hamilton and other North Shore towns plans to think long and hard about the best way to treat mosquito-borne disease next summer.

When mosquito-borne illness were found last summer in Hamilton and Wenham, trucks went through neighborhoods at night spraying to kill the mosquitoes.

But is it the answer? A roundtable discussion next month will examine the issue.

"The impulse is yes, we have to do something," Health Agent Leslie Whelan told the Board of Health when she first announced the event.

Some North Shore communities, including Essex and Gloucester, are not members of the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquitoo Control Board. And the Rockport Board of Health has recommended to its Board of Selectmen not to join.

The Cape Ann Mosquito Forum is planned for Thursday, March 7 from 6-8 p.m. at Cruiseport Gloucester in Gloucester.

The forum will look at the health risks of mosquito control and is being put on by the Cape Ann Emergency Planning Team several local Boards of Health

It will be moderated by Dr. David Driscoll of the Essex Board of Health and include panelists Dr. Al DeMaria, Medical Director of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and State Epidemiologist; Jack A. Card, Jr., Director for Northeast Mass Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District; Dr. Catherine Brown, State Public Health Veterinarian for the Department of Public Health and Dr. Esteban L. Cubas-Incle, Entomologist for Northeast Mass Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District.

Concern about the spraying was brought to the Board of Selectmen last summer where some residents questioned the danger of the spray. The goal of the March 7 forum is to "advance the conversation."

The question, Whelan said, is whether the town wants to spray each time it received notification from the Mosquito Board about a positive test for either West Nile Virus or EEE in a mosquito in Hamilton.

In news stories on Hamilton-Wenham Patch, some commenters have also said that they are concerned about the safety of the spray and the impact on other wildlife and humans.

Whelan told the Board of Health she has been working to investigate the issue, including contacting the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass-Lowell and the Audubon Society.

If the town decided not to spray after a positive test of WNV or EEE, there would be a significant response from residents, said Lindle Willnow, chairman of the Board of Health.

The discussion of whether to spray or not should be a "much bigger discussion" than the Board of Health, according to board member Susan Wilfahry.

The town pays the mosquito board about $40,000 per year and testing and spraying for infected mosquitos in the board's main job. The cost is based on the town's population and not how often spraying is conducted in the town.

"If people are concerned, I think it should go to a town vote," she said.

In some places, such as Cape Cod, there is a county-wide mosquito board but it does not spray, Whelan said.

Gretel Clark February 22, 2013 at 08:05 PM
As a beekeeper, I am very concerned about the spray itself. Does it still contain chemicals that are toxic to bees; what would be the hours of spraying; and will residents be notified well before the spraying; including information as to what roads the sprayer will travel.?
Jennifer Flynn February 22, 2013 at 10:08 PM
I am concerned about the chemicals as well.
Tracy February 22, 2013 at 11:14 PM
There is very little evidence that these chemicals actually kill mosquitoes in significant numbers -- especially not the way they're currently being applied, and when -- and spraying creates a false sense of safety. It's cheaper, safer and easier to launch a thorough public-awareness campaign and let people protect themselves and their families as they think best.
Michael February 23, 2013 at 01:03 AM
I too am very concerned about this toxic spaying of chemicals. Last year I attended a town hall public health meeting and voiced my concerns. A day or so after they sprayed our street I had respiratory issues and my wife who has asthma was very ill. We grow vegetables organically and that truck going by pretty much eradicates everything we work hard at. I encourage people to visit the Northeast Mosquito control website and read the toxic warnings of these chemicals. Also, it would be great to have a large representation at the next meeting and tell our town that we do not want toxic chemicals sprayed. Thank you everyone for all your support.
Lauren February 27, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Incidence of WNV and EEE has been on the rise in Massachusetts and these are certainly diseases about which the public should be aware. Mosquito prevention is very important; however there are numerous detrimental health effects tied to the use of toxic pesticides. Do public officials consider organic solutions that are effective and safe?


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