Dallas thinks it's really great that some of you people are interested in environmental bullshit. That's the clear message we're getting from the city's 2014 Mosquito Plan, a report that makes a few lazy attempts to appease the environmental folks who have argued that Dallas' current mosquito-killing methods are bad for our ecosystem.
It was last summer when a group of local foodies, scientists and environmentalists started a big campaign to lobby Dallas to back off of adult insecticides and instead try some non-toxic larvicides in its mosquito-killing efforts. Sure, our federal health agencies and other cities have been aligned with Dallas in a similar, pro-adulticide message, but a growing a body of research argues that this approach is out-of-date.
A few studies over the years have suggested that adulticides are both ineffective at killing mosquitoes and also harmful to beneficial insects in our ecosystem, like bees. Some studies suggest that the adulticides can even be directly harmful to human children, acting as endocrine disruptors, or chemicals that your body confuses with hormones when they get in your system. After interviewing the researchers and looking at the numbers, our own Jim Schutze sided with the pro-larvicide hippies.
And while Dallas had a pretty good summer in 2013 in terms of avoiding a massive West Nile outbreak, Denton also had a good 2013, but Denton didn't need to spray any of the toxic adulticide stuff to do it, as we reported last year.
It now seems that Dallas is catching on to this whole environmental thing, or at least wants to put on the appearance that it has. The city's 2014 Mosquito Plan, presented this week to the City Council's Quality of Life & Environment Committee, stresses the city will distribute free mosquito dunks to Dallas residents. Mosquito dunks contain larvicides. They've been championed by the anti-adulticide people for awhile. The report doesn't indicate how many will be distributed, but hopefully a lot. Good idea, Dallas.
The mosquito plan begins to look a little more shaky when it gets around to discussing the city's adulticide of choice, Aqualuer 20/20, or, as the report spells it, "Aqua Lure 20/20." The plan makes the case that Aqualuer is also environmentally friendly and harmless, coming from a family of chemicals called pyrethroids. Here are the reasons Dallas provides for why pyrethroids are cool:
- The City uses Pyrethroid (Aqua Lure 20/20).
- Naturally occurring pesticide which is found in chrysanthemums.
- Only product that is mixed with water (other products are chemical-based and mixed with oil).
- Safe for plant life (apples, peaches, leafy vegetables, melon, walnuts, etc).
But wait a second, if the pyrethroids in Aqualuer 20/20 are so safe, why did a big panel of researchers at Harvard and MIT recommend against spraying pyrethroids in the area in 2000, arguing that the known risks outweighed the benefits?
It turns out, Dallas appears to be a little confused about what pyrethroids are.
Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals. They're not from flowers. It's another chemical, pyrethrins, that are the naturally occurring ones extracted from chrysanthemums.
There's no need to feel bad about getting the two mixed up. "Pyrethrins are often confused with their synthetic cousins, the pyrethroids," explains the NRDC. "These synthetic versions ... are generally more toxic and longer lasting in the environment."
If you had any doubts, Aqualuer's own label explains that "this pesticide extremely toxic to aquatic organisms" and is also "highly toxic to bees."
In that case, it's probably best to ignore the city's advice to put Aqualuer on your apples and peaches. Here's the full 2014 Mosquito Plan: