Non-Toxic Irvine Fights Spraying of Aerial Chemicals

Last night’s City Council Meeting in Irvine hosted over 200 people, many of whom were there to oppose OC Vector Control District’s (OCVCD) plans regarding the aerial spraying of the anti-mosquito chemical Duet. As West Nile, Zika and Dengue Fever pose threats around the world, OCVCD’s argument for spraying Duet is to ensure that those illnesses don’t become a pandemic. But environmental activists say the chemical poses a public health concern while also endangering the environment. 

OCVCD’s proposal to spray Duet over Irvine also arguably contradicts the city-wide law that was instated at the Feb. 23 Irvine City Council meeting, which eliminated the use of harmful, chemical-laden pesticides, herbicides and insecticides in public areas, parks, athletic fields and city-maintained landscaping. Members of Non-Toxic Irvine, the grass roots group that spearheaded the city-wide toxin-free movement, took charge last night by presenting detailed explanations as to why spraying airborne chemicals over Irvine (and Orange County in general) isn’t the answer.

“Our community can do much better than the aerial spraying program posed by Vector Control,” said board member of Non-Toxic Irvine, Ayn Craciun. Compared to the $1.3 million budget the OCVCD has for aerial spraying, they’ve set aside only $30,000 on public education regarding the program, which Craciun (and others) believe should be reconsidered. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aerial spraying is the least effective means of mosquito control and there are several alternatives that we can utilize that will be more effective and less harmful.”

Families who’ve experienced pediatric cancer as a (very) likely result of chemical exposure also expressed their concerns. “Duet is comprised of three main ingredients sumithrin, prallethrin and piperonyl butoxide (PBO)… PBO is a synergistic agent used to increase the potency of sumithrin and prallethrin, and it compromises the body’s ability to detoxify the ingredients of Duet, which research has proven to be neuro-poisons,” said Laurie Thompson, a member of Non-Toxic Irvine whose daughter is one of the dozen children diagnosed with brain cancer in Irvine. Thomson went on to explain that a study conducted by Columbia and Duke University reveal that PBO exposure during pregnancy impairs brain development in children. “Children suffer intelligence loss by PBO exposure.”

In a separate conversation about the aerial spraying program, Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D, a professor at UCI and scientist who helped Non-Toxic Irvine prevail in the Feb. 23 City Council meeting, pointed out that the information available about Duet is propaganda. “If you look at their statements made to the public, they’re all misleading,” he said in a phone interview. “One of the questions on the FAQ asks: ‘Will the application of this product harm my children and / or pets? Can they be outdoors during application?’ and their answer is that people and pets can be outdoors during application because the low application rate and wide area dispersal of the spray ensure that exposures are minimal…This is outrageous and is a complete disregard for public health. Neither sumithrin or prallethrin (chemicals in Duet) are recommended for direct exposure to humans, and sumithrin is considered to be an endocrine disruptor by the European Commission.”

Although a decision still lies on the horizon, the health risks posed by the aerial spraying of Duet are of such massive concern that several Irvine residents who spoke at last night’s meeting are opting to leave the city if the initiative passes. “I organically garden, and the aerial spraying of insecticides will not only kill all beneficial insects in my care, but also toxify my soil. We already live in an area of toxic soil due to past irresponsible conventional agricultural practices, and I’ve worked really hard to detoxify my space…,” said Tawna Renee, an Irvine resident who also spoke as a member of Non-Toxic Irvine at the Feb. 23 City Council meeting. “If this initiative passes, my belief that Irvine is not the safest city in the world is certainly solidified. We will no longer have a choice in personal health, and I will absolutely seek residence somewhere else…aerial spraying is the last straw.”

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