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“Permethrin toxicity data show that the compound is highly toxic to honeybees, as well as other beneficial insects.”

That’s what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says about the pesticide that the cities of Dallas, University Park and Highland Park may spray from the air in an attempt to kill the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.

They are already fogging some neighborhoods (as are several suburbs) with the chemical by night, and will decide early next week on aerial spraying logistics, once planes requested from the state are made available.

No one denies the seriousness of the issue.  As of last Thursday, there were 175 cases of infection in Dallas County, according to information on the Dallas County Health and Human Services website.  In Tarrant County there were 146 cases as of Friday, according to information on the Tarrant County website.  Nine deaths have been recorded in Dallas County and one in Tarrant County.

But despite these numbers, some people are questioning whether spraying Permethrin is the right answer.

In addition to its stark warnings about bees and other beneficial insects, the EPA classifies Permethrin as “’Likely to be Carcinogenic to Humans’ by the oral route,” although the levels at which it is allowed to be used are “below the Agency’s level of concern (LOC).”

In any case it’s nasty stuff. 

As Jim Schutze pointed out in his article in the Dallas Observer recently, “permethroids were popular with manufacturers of flea collars for cats and dogs, but the EPA took a harder look when animals started showing up with tremors and some even keeled over dead.  Now the collars advise “DO NOT USE ON CATS.”

The fogging has already damaged the local bee population.  In a story on WFAA TV, Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild noted that he’s lost “thousands of bees” to the fogging.

“When you’re trying to support this fragile natural resource that’s already under siege, this adds insult to injury,” Pollard noted in the interview.

Pollard is one of some 400 people who have signed a petition on Change.org asking the cities to push harder on more environmentally friendly ways to control the mosquitoes. 

Petition organizer, Vanessa Van Guilder who has also started a website on the issue, is asking the cities to emphasize more environmentally friendly efforts such as introducing more larvae-eating fish in appropriate bodies water and push harder for individual responsibility by encouraging people to avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk and using insect repellent.  Van Guilder is a bee-keeper and president of the Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association.

She intends to try to voice her concerns at the next meeting of the Dallas Commissioners Court on Tuesday and the Dallas City Council meeting on Wednesday. 

Interestingly, as Dallas County city fathers gather early next week to map the logistics of aerial spraying, the powers that be in Fort Worth have already decided fogging and spraying are not effective.

Here’s what Scott Hanlon, assistant director of Code Compliance in Fort Worth said when asked by Councilman Frank Moss during the pre-council meeting on Tuesday, July 31, as quoted by NBC News:

"Nobody puts a spraying program in place as the solution for West Nile virus…Nor is it effective in killing 100 percent of mosquitoes in any given area. Spraying only kills adult mosquitoes that are active during the time that chemicals are being dispersed. They don't impact larva. The typical application methods of driving down the street with fog coming out of the back of a truck might be good for those environments right around those roadways, but for those environments that aren't as close to the roadways, they aren't as effective. .. there are residents who have a real concern about potential health impacts, the potential environmental impacts of the use of those chemicals driving down the street and spraying in those neighborhoods. For all those reasons back then, the decision was made that we would endorse the broader based prevention messages and teach people in neighborhoods how to eliminate source pools and how to utilize personal protection strategies to prevent mosquito bites."

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