The crisis du jour in northern California:
The state agriculture department plans to use airplanes at night this summer to spray a farm pesticide over urban San Francisco, Marin County and the East Bay, intending to eradicate a potentially destructive moth.

The little-known proposal to wipe out the light brown apple moth, which if it became established could destroy the region's agricultural industry, has developed increasing opposition among some residents who fear for their health.

Hundreds of people whose homes and yards were sprayed in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties from September to December have filed reports that said the pesticide seems to have caused coughing, wheezing, muscle aches and headaches, among other symptoms. One Monterey family reported that a child had a first-time asthma attack.
Sign that I'm a gardening geek: I'm far, far more concerned about what adverse effects this might have on beneficial insects than I am about my own health.
Spraying of the pesticide, called Checkmate, is expected to begin in the Bay Area in August and could continue for five years over San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, Oakland, Piedmont, Emeryville, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Tiburon and Belvedere. Other chemicals could also be used.

Before its use in Santa Cruz and Monterey last year, the pesticide, a hormone that throws off the scents of mating moths, had been used aerially only over farms and never over populated areas.

And I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the L.A. Times in this opinion piece from last October:
There's something in the air in Monterey County, and it isn't the ocean breeze. Residents say they're being sickened after the state approved an aerial pesticide spraying program -- and it won't reveal what chemicals they're being forced to breathe.

The state says it has no choice because it is bound by law to protect the trade secrets of the pesticide's maker. If that's the case, it points up a serious problem with trademark law. This isn't the recipe for McDonald's special sauce or the secret formula for Coca-Cola; consumers do not have to ingest those if they don't want to. But it's tough to escape chemicals when they're applied from the air over 60 square miles.

(Emphases mine.)


Frances, said...

Yikes! The need to eradicate the moth is understandable, as is peoples' concerns. We have lived in places where the powers that be have sprayed, mostly for mosquitoes, from trucks, not airplanes. Last night joggers, one of my offspring, were even directly sprayed by the truck. But the need for spraying is there until some other way can be discovered.

chuck b. said...

We lived in the south bay when planes sprayed malathion for the Mediterranean fruit fly when I was a kid.

Christopher C. NC said...

"The state says it has no choice because it is bound by law to protect the trade secrets of the pesticide's maker."

There is something fishy about this statement. For a pesticide to approved by the EPA it has to have all the ingredients properly labled and tested. The pesticide applicators should by law know what they are spraying and what dangers are involved and what precautionary measures are needed.

The pesticide maker can have a proprietary patent on the formulation and trademark the name and all that to prevent others from making it, but I really don't think they can hide the ingredients of a pesticide.

This is California for dawgs sake, the most regulated state in the nation, where they have cancer warning labels on the entrance of grocery stores.

Of course we are in the Bush years of the EPA.

kate said...

It's amazing that people don't know what is in the pesticide used. When we had widespread spraying for Dutch elm disease, we knew exactly what was being sprayed. They also didn't spray from the air - that seems like overkill to me.

With any of these spray programmes, I always wonder what beneficial insects will be affected and what new problems that will bring in its wake.

lisa said...

So you're saying that you don't trust our wise and benevolent government to do what's best for us? Who put that idea into your head...hippies bitching about agent orange? Tree-huggers going on about DDT? Why be nervous when all the experts agree: Everything is fine. (This is a pre-recorded message from G.W. Bush...he's on his way out, so just try and stop him!)