This post was first published almost two years ago, but I’m reposting it now as it is that time of year again when you should be aware of these kinds of issues.
I recently had an interaction with Vector control that compelled me to write a post about mosquito fogging. I live in the high desert in Southern California and we don’t have any mosquito fogging in my city because we rarely get any mosquitoes, which is one of the main reasons I live here. I can’t and won’t be exposed to toxic pesticides. However, I must do my grocery shopping in the Palm Springs area, and because they have so many golf courses, and try to make grass grow in a climate where it isn’t supposed to grow, the entire city uses sprinkling systems on their lawns consistently, which results in more humidity and dampness and thus mosquitoes.
A friend had called me up and heard they were fogging in the Palm Springs area for several days and I was a planning trip down the next day. So I did a Google search and found the website for Vector control and they had an informative site that gave details on where they would be fogging and even had a map. It was only a small area that would be affected and it wasn’t anywhere in the area where I was going. However, I wanted to be sure that the website was up to date and verify for sure that there wouldn’t be other areas involved as well, so I called them up.
I explained to the person in charge that I had chemical sensitivities and could not be anywhere near pesticides and that I wanted to verify the area they would be fogging. He was polite and willing to be helpful, however after he answered my questions, he proceeded to tell me that permethrins, which is the pesticide they would be using, was a natural botanical and that it was completely safe and that it completely breaks down in 15 minutes. I gave up long ago trying to convince people in public health and safety that pesticides are not safe and non-toxic, so I didn’t bother arguing with him, as it is usually useless. I told him that I was quite aware of what permethrins were and that I could not be anywhere around them, thanked him for his help and hung up.
However, a few minutes later, the more I thought about it, I began to feel outraged that people in the health and public safety field are spreading information around that is not only inaccurate, but dangerous. They are supposed to be protecting our health, but that is not the case.
First of all, pyrethrum or pyrethrins is the natural botanical form, but that is not the form that Vector control and most cities use for fogging. They use a synthetic chemical that is “similar” to the botanical form and it is called pyrethroids or permethrins. It is used widely not only in mosquito abatement, but it is also found in pesticides for fleas, lice, tics, mites like scabies, ants and termites and is widely used in agriculture on cotton, wheat, corn, etc.
Pyrethroids or permethrins are a powerful neurotoxin and are listed even by the EPA , who is extremely reluctant to acknowledge toxicity of any chemical, as “likely” carcinogenic. In rats it causes hyperactivity, tremors, salivation, hyperexcitability, urination, defecation and incoordination and liver damage. Baby rats are much more susceptible than adult rats and exhibit more severe symptoms. Other animals exposed may experience numbness of the lip and tongue, diarrhea, nausea, convulsions, aggression, seizures. paralysis, respiratory failure and death.
It also kills indiscriminately, meaning in addition to the bug you’re trying to get rid of, it also kills a variety of beneficial insets, including bees, aquatic life and small mammals like mice. It is highly toxic to cats, honey bees and other beneficial insects and is considered mildly toxic to birds like mallards.
Common reactions in the human population include itching, burning and prickling sensations of the skin, headaches, convulsions, tremors, facial flushing and selling, asthma, sneezing and nasal congestion and nausea. Permethrins and pyrethrums have been linked to a variety of serious health conditions like autism, parkinsons, birth defects, depression, breast cancer, thyroid damage and disease, liver disease, kidney problems and damage to the immune, endocrine and nervous systems.
Permethrins and pyrethrums kill their victim by modifying the normal biochemistry and physiology of the membrane sodium channels and altering the nerve function. In other words it paralyzes the nervous system.
Additionally, the half life of permethrins in soil is 30 days. This means that in order to completely break down were talking a good 6 months. In 60 days there is still 25% left, in 90 days 12% is still present and even at 210 days there is still 3% present on the soil.
Now if all this isn’t bad enough, here’s the real kicker in regard to mosquito fogging. Permethrins are only effective at knocking down and paralyzing it’s intended victim; it doesn’t kill them. So another chemical is added with permethrins to give it more killing power called piperonyl butoxide.
Piperonyl butoxide is a suspected carcinogen and believed to be highly toxic to the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal, reproductive and nervous systems. It is suspected of being connected to symptoms and conditions such as coma, convulsions, renal damage, hyperexcitability, prenatal damage, vomiting, weight loss, anorexia and many more. It too is toxic to birds, fish and other aquatic life.
Piperonyl butoxide works by inhibiting the detoxification pathways of it’s victim, which means the pesticide is then permitted to remain in its victim for a longer period of time, so that permethrins can kill it. In humans this detox pathway is in the liver, this means this chemical targets the liver.
So these two chemicals together knock down the intended victim by attacking it’s nervous system and then render it unable to detox the chemical out of it’s body by inhibiting it’s detox pathways.
Make no mistake, folks, this is exactly what these chemicals do to the human body as well — attacks the nervous system and inhibits detox pathways. The fact that these chemicals are toxic to insects and other mammals, means it is toxic to the human body as well. I can tell you this is true from personal experience. When I am exposed to pesticides, my body responds by having respiratory difficulty, severe tremors that border on convulsions, depression, numbness in lips and tongue, diarrhea, inability to think clearly, thyroid dysfunction and my detox pathways in my liver are severely damaged. There are millions of people who respond the same way, but this is information that is not widely known, because the chemical companies don’t want the public to know this.
It’s important to remember that your public health and safety organizations are taking their information from the EPA, FDA and the manufacturers of the chemicals. You are not getting the truth. The goal of chemical manufacturers is to keep their chemicals on the market so they make money, not to protect the consumer and unfortunately the EPA and FDA are in their pocket. They hold out on listing the toxicity of a product until their hand is forced, they are often only concerned with whether a chemical causes cancer, when cancer is only one possible effect of toxicity. Many chemicals are not carcinogenic, however they harm the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and damage internal organs, which is just as serious. Additionally, they fail to take into account the issue of accumulation. When you consider the fact that the human body is exposed to an onslaught of chemicals every day, the combination of all them together creates even more toxicity. Pesticide sales generate trillions of dollars in our world and the truth about their toxicity would be detrimental to our economy, so it is covered up. It does not take a rocket scientist to put one and one together and see the dangers we are being exposed to.
The arrival of the West Nile Virus was a dream come true for the pesticide companies. They set off a campaign to instill unfounded fear within the population and then took advantage of these fears to make bundles of money. The truth of the matter is that the chance you are going to die from the West Nile Virus is extremely unlikely. Your health is put at a much higher risk of harm from mosquito fogging than it is from West Nile Virus.
Let’s put a couple things in perspective. West Nile Virus is listed as a “rare disease” by the Office of Rare Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. According to the CDC, so far in the year of 2008 there have been 1030 humans infected with West Nile Virus in the entire country, and it’s almost the end of the year. Out of this 1030 only 20 of these cases were fatal. Millions of people suffer from pesticide poisoning each year. Each year 200,000 people are hospitalized for the flu and 36,000 of them die. There is no epidemic of West Nile here. It is absurd that we spend millions of dollars spraying toxic pesticides all over the population.
As Dr. Mercola points out pesticides are responsible for killing a lot more birds than West Nile Virus and the symptoms of pesticide poisoning have some similarities to West Nile symptoms, such as numbness, inflammation of the brain and neuropathy. So some people may actually be having reactions to pesticides that are classified as the West Nile Virus.
Another important fact is that even the botanical form, which is often sold in health food stores as an alternative pesticide, called pyrethrum or pyrethrins is also a neurotoxin. In it’s natural organic form it is a plant in the chrysanthemum family and the pesticide is made from the dried shower head. Although it is certainly a safer choice than organophosphate and organochlorines, because it breaks down faster than the synthetic form, it too is harmful to birds, fish and other mammals including humans. It too paralyzes the nervous system in the same way and is also linked to health conditions like autism, tremors, etc. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you. There are many things in nature that are naturally poisonous.
When I first started living a green lifestyle, I hadn’t done my homework thoroughly, and I thought it was okay to use the natural botanical pyrethrins and I bought a bottle at the health food store of the powder and sprinkled it around my kitchen to get rid of some ants. Shortly thereafter I had trouble breathing, I was shaking, trembling and disoriented, my lips and tongue were numb and I could hardly stand up because my legs wouldn’t work. I was glad it was in powder form because it was easy to clean up and I had to get rid of it immediately.
To protect your health from toxic pesticides like permethrins, you need to keep yourself informed by sources who are actually telling the truth. Don’t allow public and government agencies to be your compass. Read more about the impact of pesticides on your health.
If you live in an area that fogs, I encourage you to protect you and your family by finding out when your community fogs and stay in the house with the windows shut during this time. I recommend staying in for about 12 hours if possible, but at the very least for several hours.