Now that the average temperature around Northeast Florida has finally, mercifully dipped below hot as balls, people are crawling out of the air conditioning where they’ve spent the last six months sequestered and experiencing the great outdoors without immediately turning into the Swamp Thing.
Compared to the boiled ozone taste of summer, the cooler air is so clean and refreshing that you just want to gulp it down.
But before you breathe too deeply, be warned: Duval and St. Johns counties have been spraying a controversial insecticide right over our very heads.
The insecticide, naled, which is also commonly referred to by its product name, Dibrom, is in a class of poisons referred to as ‘organophosphates,’ which attacks the nervous systems of insects and other life forms, including humans. It’s been approved for use since 1959, and the Environmental Protection Agency website says that naled does not pose a risk of harm to humans if used properly, though individuals with preexisting health conditions or chemical sensitivities may experience skin, eye or respiratory irritation.
Nevertheless, the substance has earned the ire of environmental groups. But those fruitcakes are always up in arms about something, amiright?
Of course, there is the teensy matter of the bees. Remember way back in late August when 2.5 million honeybees up and died in South Carolina? Naled was their killer.
There’s also the probably insignificant fact that naled is banned by the Europe Union because, as Miami New Times reports, it poses an “unacceptable risk” to human and natural life.
As long as we’re on the subject, it bears mentioning that last summer, naled caused the island of Puerto Rico to lose its ever-loving mind when people found out that it had been surreptitiously shipped there by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mosquito control. Seriously, their outrage was so intense that the Puerto Rican governor shipped the poison back stateside.
If people who live somewhere where Zika virus was actually being locally transmitted by mosquitoes would rather take their chances with Zika than get naled doesn’t give you pause, perhaps you’re moving too fast.
There’s also the tiny matter of its risk to aquatic invertebrates, such as shrimp, and other terrestrial wildlife, per the EPA. Or, if you’re more inclined to trust a collaboration of universities that includes Cornell, Michigan State, Oregon State and University of California at Davis: “Naled is toxic to most types of aquatic life,” and is “highly to moderately toxic to birds.”
If you’re still not convinced, take it from the manufacturer’s mouth: American Vanguard Corporation subsidiary AMVAC Chemical Corp. writes in its Safety Data Sheet about Dibrom, “This product is toxic to fish, birds, and other wildlife. Keep out of any body of water. [Emphasis added]”
It’s not like there’s a ton of lakes, swamps, rivers, streams, natural ponds, retention ponds, marshes or estuaries in Northeast Florida, though, right? Oh, right…
But it’s all worth it cause we’re fighting Zika virus, right? Nobody wants stand idly by and let even one baby get born with severe microcephaly. The optics alone of that squashed-in baby head could kill a political career.
Of course, it’s worth noting that there hasn’t even been one single case of Zika transmitted locally. And it might matter to people to know that naled may cause birth defects in fetuses whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy.
Jennifer Sass, senior scientist with environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Huffington Post in July that the neurotoxin is “among the class of the most toxic pesticides.” She went on to say that “recent studies have shown spraying pesticides in the same chemical class as Naled, even at ‘legally allowed exposure’ levels, is ‘definitely not safe during early
In spite of the foregoing things we might want to consider before spraying a neurotoxin in the same chemical family as sarin gas, St. Augustine Record reports that last week St. Johns County wrapped up a poison bath that coated 60,000 acres. And Duval County continues aerially spraying naled — weather permitting, of course. In what seems about the most boneheaded idea of all time, in Duval they’re spraying it in the morning hours while kids are going to school — also a great time to spray if you’re trying to kill bees and butterflies midair. At least St. Johns County had the courtesy to spray at night.
They both might want to take a page from the Orange County playbook: the Orlando Sentinel reports that officials there halted spraying naled way back in 2010 due to citizen concerns about its effect on wildlife and humans.
Now might be the time to call your local representative and ask what they’re doing to fight the real culprit: naled. Unless you really don’t give a flying fig about birds, bees, fish, invertebrates and fetuses, in which case, keep googling Donald Trump memes, IDFC.