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Washington, D.C., August 27, 2002—An environmental risk expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute says environmentalists are preventing officials from protecting the public’s health by fighting the responsible use of pesticides against the deadly West Nile virus. According to Angela Logomasini, rather than face the fierce criticism from environmental activists, public officials often choose not to spray--potentially increasing the number of West Nile-related deaths.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mosquito-transmitted disease has spread to 34 states and the District of Columbia, and is expected to reach as far west as California within a year. Still early in the season, the virus has already killed 22 people.
“Environmentalists suggest we don’t need to spray because as one New York-based group notes: ‘These diseases only kill the old and people whose health is already poor.’ The attitude that these deaths and illnesses are unimportant is unconscionable,” she says.
She adds, “Environmentalists are trying to scare the American public into believing pesticide spraying is dangerous, even more dangerous than the disease itself, when in fact, the EPA sets pesticide standards to limit exposure to an amount that is hundreds of times lower than the maximum levels it deems safe.”
Medical entomologists agree. “Contrary to the environmentalist view, public health campaigns that use insecticides against diseases have a remarkable record of public safety and a remarkable record of protecting humans from insect-borne diseases,” says Dr. Donald Roberts, professor of tropical public health at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Nowhere are such impacts of turning away from pesticides more clear than the case of DDT reduction for malaria control in the developing world. South Africa nearly eradicated malaria-carrying mosquitos when it used DDT, but cases soared again after the nation caved to environmental activists who pressed the country to switch to other pesticides. The crisis led them to resume DDT use, Logomasini reports.
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