West Port Connecticut

City Sprays "left-over" pesticide on sleeping citizens

Sent to Advocate, Hour, New Haven Register, New Haven Advocate, Hartford Courant, CT Post, the various Inquirers, and the Westport papers.
All via fax except Advocate (I only have email address).

August 4, 2000

Letter to the Editor

I'm writing in reference to a letter you published August 2, in which a Stamford man described his experience of being poisoned with Scourge ["Mayor to blame for exposing residents to spray," Conrad Walter Bareiss"]. Despite the fact that his health department expressly promised to warn him of any change in the spraying schedule, he and his family -- asleep with their windows open -- were sprayed without notice, and suffered reactions typical of exposure to this pesticide.

Last fall, my family and I were also exposed to Scourge without warning. Our house was one half mile away from the published spray route. We nevertheless opted to close our windows the night they sprayed -- just in case. At 10 p.m., we heard a muffled bullhorn and saw lights. We rushed to the window to see a police advance car two to three car-lengths ahead of a spray truck, both moving very slowly. A heavy mist hung in the air, and our house was coated.

We went back to our evening. Fifteen minutes later, I tasted metal in my mouth, as did my husband. My 23-month-old son coughed repeatedly in his sleep. We moved him as far as we could into the interior of the house and sat for one of the longest hours of our lives waiting for the poison mist outside to settle. Wrapping our son's head in a towel and burying our heads in our sleeves, we fled our home in the middle of the night.

The next morning, I couldn't feel the top of my face, or my fingertips. I was so hoarse I could barely speak. My eyes, and those of my son, were ringed with red. By the end of the day I was disoriented and my reflexes were so slow I could not manage to hold a cup of tea. My son was too young to tell me how he felt.

36 hours after the spraying, I was almost back to "normal," but in the ensuing six weeks my typically healthy son suffered from no less than five bouts of "flu." That, too, passed. I will never know if his illnesses were caused by our exposure; no one can really talk a straight line about the stuff. Today, almost a year later, I find I am sensitive to certain chemicals that never bothered me before. My son appears fine, but I worry about the long-term effects of his exposure. The resmethrin in Scourge is apparently a hormone disruptor, and the chemical "carrier" it's mixed with is a suspected carcinogen.

I called the health department the morning after the spraying, and was told that we were the only ones reacting. The woman I spoke with guessed that, because we eat mostly organic food, we just weren't "used" to pesticides. I asked her if that didn't scare her just a little -- I mean, does anyone ever get "used" to poison?

I did some more calling and found out that what I had been exposed to was an offspraying. You see, if they had returned to the town truck depot (at the end of our street) with the Scourge still in the truck, they would have had to dispose of it as a hazardous material. So they decided to unload their trucks, instead, onto an unprepared neighborhood consisting of (among others) 15 children under five years of age, nine people over 70 years old, and two pregnant women. The government claims regarding the safety of Scourge do not account for this type of misapplication.

In relating this story to you, I would like to point out that this unscheduled spraying was performed by workers so flagrantly uninformed by officials as to the toxicity of Scourge that they left their truck windows open as they sprayed. This in an effort to eradicate a disease that is, admittedly, carried by mosquitoes, but is reservoired in birds. I object to being exposed to a neurotoxin laced with a carcinogen in an effort to control a virus that is significantly less deadly than last year's flu.

I'm not trying to diminish the tragedy of those few who have succumbed to the West Nile-like virus, but the fact of the matter is that most of these people had compromised immune systems. Ironically the very young or the very old are the exact people who are also most at risk of adverse reactions to pesticides.

The government estimates your chance of contracting West Nile to be one in 300,000. Your chance of being exposed to a known toxin, however, is 100% if your home is sprayed. Does that make any sense? Call your health department now. Call your elected officials. We are all responsible for speaking up -- silence is as good as acceptance.

The best person to protect you from West Nile is you. Take reasonable precautions. If you are at risk for West Nile, stay indoors during peak mosquito hours and avoid mosquito breeding areas like marshes and wetlands. And if the stars are really beautiful, spray on a mix of 12 oz. Skin-So-Soft and 30 drops each of  essential oils of clove lemon (or lime) and peppermint. I swear by it.

If you are sprayed and experience a reaction, go immediately to the emergency room. Then call your local health department to report it. And please call Connecticut S.A.F.E. (Seeking Alternatives to the Environment) at (203) 363-1400, to report it as well.


Lynn Pritchard
Westport, CT  06880



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