In an attempt to control the invasive light brown apple moth, which experts say may threaten the region's agriculture, officials have worked out a plan to begin nighttime spraying of farm pesticides over urban San Francisco, Marin County and the East Bay. This has many residents very concerned about public health and safety.
Already, 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, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. One family reported that a child had a first-time asthma attack.
State officials claim the amount of chemicals in question shouldn't pose severe health risks, but they refused to rule out the possibility of effects on human beings. It is well known that some people can be more sensitive to pesticides, as well as other chemicals, especially the young, elderly and immune compromised -- so many are worried.
Spraying of the pesticide Checkmate is expected to begin in August, and may continue for as many as five years. That particular chemical has never been used over urban areas before. The EPA has not listed Checkmate as a chemical of concern, and has never set a maximum safety limit for the pesticide in food.
An umbrella group has formed to oppose the spraying, called California Alliance to Stop the Spray, or CASS.
An import from Australia, the light brown apple moth attacks fruit trees and grapes, which are clearly important crops in California. So it's not surprising that officials would be under pressure to do something to stop it's spread. Much of the funding for the spraying is being provided by the federal government. But that makes one wonder, is it sound policy to use taxpayer money to blanket communities with pesticides? Checkmate certainly isn't the most toxic tool on the shelf, by a long shot, but early reports should provide cause for concern.
The best medicine for these kinds of battles has got to be preventing the spread of harmful invasive species in the first place. The march of globalization is upsetting already stressed ecosystems, and we need to take more care to reduce introduction of pests that can ravage new terrain. Due to rapid resistance building, chemical pesticides are never long-term solutions anyway when it comes to most threats.
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