Residents Feel Stung by Surprise West Nile Sprayings

Locals claim the Department of Health did not 
give enough time to prepare for neighborhoods 
surrounding Prospect Park to be covered by noxious pesticides Thursday night.
    * By <>Will Yakowicz
the author
    * August 4, 2011
Locals are peeved about a city plan to spray a 
mosquito-killing pesticide in the neighborhood 
Thursday evening­and the city’s lack of warning about the plan.

The Department of Health plans to spray Anvil, a 
pesticide thought to cause cancer, throughout the 
neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, 
Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park beginning at 8 
p.m. on Thursday evening, in hopes of eradicating 
mosquitoes potentially carrying the deadly West Nile Virus.

The DOH sent out an email warning residents, but 
only gave residents an initial 24 hours of 
notice. They also suggested to keep all windows 
closed and stay indoors  until 6 a.m. tomorrow.

Gilly Younger, a member of the Park Slope Civic 
Council, was in the park unwittingly during the 
first night the trucks were supposed to come. She 
found out about the scheduled spray through a 
Twitter feed, which she thought was unacceptable.

“They need to shut down the park for this,” 
Younger said explaining if it wasn’t cancelled 
she would’ve been exposed to the harsh chemicals. 
“I am a cancer survivor so I take precaution with 
airborne toxins. These pesticides do have links to causing cancer.”

On August 2, the DOH sent an E-mail to community 
board members, city council members and Notify 
NYC the day before the first scheduled spray on 
August 3. When that spraying was cancelled due to 
rain, another E-mail gave 24 hours notice.

By default, there was a 72-hour warning (though 
the DOH said that it was not merely by default). 
But the community believes the medium of 
communication between them and the DOH was not sufficient.

Council member Brad Lander was just as peeved at 
the lack of adequate community outreach.

“I am disappointed that the Department of Health 
gave such short and incomplete notice about its 
planned mosquito spraying,” Lander said. “The 
agency needs to give adequate notice of such 
actions and be transparent about the risks of the 
pesticide and the precautions that should be taken.”

Locals were also upset about the city agency’s 
initial plan to spray Prospect Park during 
Thursday evening’s Celebrate Brooklyn 
concert­despite that it recommends locals stay 
indoors­but in the face of criticism the city 
quickly decided to spray the park after the show instead.

The exact areas that will be sprayed by trucks 
are boarded by Washington Avenue to the East; 
20th Street, Prospect Park West, and Eastern 
Parkway to the North; 45th Street and Fifth 
Avenue to the West; and Ft. Hamilton Parkway and Caton Avenue to the South.

The Environmental Protection Agency grades Anvil 
in the least toxic category, sumithrin, a 
neuropoison in Anvil, is dangerous to humans. 
Symptoms of exposure are dizziness, headache, 
fatigue and diarrhea. In laboratory tests, 
sumithrin is known to damage the liver and 
kidneys, cause anemia, and increase the chances 
of liver cancer. It is also found to increase the 
proliferation of cells in breast cancer and can 
also mimic estrogen and prevent other hormones 
from binding to its normal receptors. Even in low 
concentrations, sumithrin kills fish and bees, 
and is poisonous to cats and dogs.

Although the DOH suggests residents in the area 
should stay indoors, they do not believe the 
chemicals pose a serious threat. “In the amounts 
used, risks to people and pets are relatively low,” said DOH’s website.

But many locals just aren’t buying it.

“The Department of Health is making up all these 
lies, saying it’s diluted and not toxic,” said 
Mitchel Cohen, the Coordinator of No Spray 
Coalition who sued the City in 2000 for spraying 
Anvil on Prospect Park’s waterways. “But if you 
are a child, forget it. It is deadly. It is 
extremely dangerous for the elderly and the immune compromised.”

According to other studies, piperonyl butoxide, 
another ingredient in Anvil, is considered a 
group C carcinogen, meaning it is considered a 
possible carcinogen to humans based on limited 
evidence of cancer in laboratory animals.

“I don’t think they are evil. They’re not Nazi 
doctors doing experiments.” Cohen said, 
explaining that the city is used to spraying 
dangerous chemicals because it is cheaper. “They 
just don’t know, don’t want to know and their 
jobs depend on following orders.”

The DOH outlines precautions to be taken on their 
however, they do not say Anvil is outright toxic 
to humans and the environment.

“We don’t need to poison our environment, kill 
off the mosquitoes’ natural predators, and cause 
long-term health problems,” said Cohen, who in 
2008 blocked a spray truck with his car, which 
resulted in the city not spraying the 
neighborhood. “And that’s exactly what these spray trucks are going to do.”

Cohen suggests using natural predators like 
dragonflies or bats to combat the mosquito 
problem. “One bat can eat 1,500 mosquitoes in one 
day,” Cohen said while explaining that bats could 
clear up a mosquito problem quickly and naturally.

But whether one is afraid of pesticides or 
believes Anvil is not dangerous, concern is still 
needed, especially with chemicals that have been 
proven to cause cancer and the community is not adequately notified.

Regardless of how much time the DOH gave the 
public to prepare for the chemicals emitted 
through their streets, three people walking near 
Prospect Park this afternoon had no idea the city 
will puff pesticide over their neighborhood in a few hours.

“I had no idea,” stated Tommy Morgan, a Park 
Slope resident for 60 years. “I am a Vietnam vet 
and they sprayed all sorts of stuff over us to 
kill vegetation. I don’t want to get sprayed in 
the face here and then they say, ‘Oh, this stuff 
will kill you.’ I’m not against it, I just want to be more informed.”

“There is a reasonable debate to whether the 
spraying is worse than the mosquitoes it kills,” 
said Eric McClure, the co-founder of Park Slope 
Neighbors. “But the fact that the DOH would 
recommend to the public that they stay indoors 
during spraying but only giving 24 hours notice, is crazy. ”


<>Susan Desocio

on Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just like the air was at acceptable levels after September 11.


<>Aaron Brashear

on Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just had two rounds on 23rd St (6th/7th Aves), 
and one in Green-Wood as of 20 mins ago.


<>Aaron Brashear

on Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thanks for the post, which was Slope-centric. The 
Greenwood Hits./Windsor Terrace community was 
given less than 24 hrs notice the first day, less 
the second day via my photos an post to local list servs. -Aaron CCGH


<>Johanna Clearfield

on Thursday, August 4, 2011

We don't have a mosquito problem. I walk my dog 
every single day in the park morning and night 
and we sit on the fields together. Last summer 
there were many more mosquitoes and this year 
almost none. Who exactly assessed that we were 
over run by bugs - there are hardly any. The odds 
of getting West Nile from a mosquito - according 
to experts -- is less than getting struck by 
lightning. There can only be one explanation when 
no reasonable answer seems to fit. Somebody is 
making money off of these extermination contracts 
and they do not want to lose that money. At the 
expense of the hundreds of at-risk birds in 
Prospect Park -- especially all of the smaller 
wrens and finches and amazing diversity of 
migratory songbirds -- who cannot (as the DOH 
instructed) Go Indoors -- These contractors are 
making a profit..??? What is the point of having 
a park if it seems to exist in theory only. 
Mosquitoes, dragon flies, bats, starlings -- all 
belong in our park. The trucks of rolling 
chemicals don't. <>


<>John Sullivan

on Friday, August 5, 2011

Just saw the cop car and truck go by in Fresh Meadows.


Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen