Despite some confusion in this new article that 
came out yesterday in City Limits -- quoting 
Laura Haight's acceptance of rat-poison pellets, 
for example, as though she was talking in favor 
of the mass-spraying of adulticides --  this is 
the first time that a significant journal in New 
York City focuses on the Health Department's 
thwarting of NYC Local Law 37's intentions. And 
that is a very important step forward in our 
fight against the spraying of toxins to kill 
mosquitoes and the government's consequent 
poisoning of New Yorkers, our pets, and wildlife.
See .

- Mitchel Cohen

City Still Using Pesticides Despite 2005 Law Banning Them

By Elah Feder
"Anvil 10+10, the insecticide used in the annual 
West Nile Virus spraying, contains piperonyl 
butoxide, is listed as a possible human 
carcinogen by the EPA. But West Nile carries its 
own risk. The city must balance the two."
- JJ Harrison

Despite a local law that bans New York City from 
using pesticides linked to cancer, city agencies 
apply thousands of pounds of these substances each year.

When Local Law 37 passed in 2005, environmental 
groups like Beyond Pesticides praised the city 
for being at the forefront of national efforts to curb pesticides.

And in its 
pesticide reports, the city suggests the 
legislation has been successful, declaring that 
as of May 2006, "use of all pesticides classified 
by the EPA as possible, probable or known human carcinogens ended."

In November that year, the report continues, the 
city eliminated pesticides classified as 
developmental toxins by the State of California – 
also prohibited under Local Law 37. Finally, EPA 
Toxicity Category 1 pesticides were prohibited as of November 2005.

But the same reports show that eight years later, 
a swath of exemptions carved out in the law have 
freed city agencies and their contractors to 
continue applying thousands of pounds of these substances each year.

In 2013, 
latest year for which data has been released, the 
city applied 25,000 pounds of solid pesticides 
that constituted Local Law 37 exemptions, 
accounting for almost a quarter of the total 
111,000 pounds of solid pesticides reported in 
the latest report. In addition, 1,900 gallons of 
exempted liquid pesticides were applied, 
representing over a quarter of total liquids 
used. Reports dating back to 2007 reveal similar 
patterns. Despite a trend of decreasing pesticide 
use by city agencies since reporting began, these 
prohibited classes do not appear to be declining.

Golf courses a frequent target

Prohibited substances do not include Roundup, the 
subject of recent intensified scrutiny when 
earlier this year, the World Health Organization 
declared Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, 
to be "probably" carcinogenic to humans. However, 
the EPA has not designated glyphosate to be 
carcinogenic nor highly toxic, so its use does 
not currently require an exemption under Local 
Law 37. In 2013, the city applied 830 gallons of 
glyphosate-based products, the majority by the 
Department of Parks and Recreation

Exempted pesticides do include, however, products 
containing chlorothalonil, a fungicide listed as 
a "likely" human carcinogen by the EPA. 
Chlorothalonil has been found to increase the 
rate of adenomas and carcinomas in rats and mice.

In 2013, the latest year for which data has been 
released, the Parks Department reported using 
6,150 pounds of chlorothalonil-based pesticides, 
in line with amounts reported in previous years.

The annual reports do not specify the purpose and 
location of each application, and the Parks 
Department did not respond to a request for 
comment. However, the most common target for 
fungicides were golf courses, according to the 2013 report.

Indeed, the bulk of the chlorothalonil-containing 
applications were of Andersons Turf Fungicide 
with 5.0% Daconil (a brand name for 
chlorothalonil), which is recommended for use on 
golf courses, athletic fields, cemeteries and 
parks. The manufacturer warns consumers, however, 
not to use the product on home lawns, or turf next to daycares or schools.

Despite being deemed a likely carcinogen, 
chlorothalonil can be applied on golf courses 
because under Local Law 37 courses are granted a blanket exemption.

That’s not unusual, [Laura] Haight says, adding 
that golf courses are routinely exempt from 
pesticide laws. "They’re incredibly toxic," she adds.

Also exempt under the law are professional 
athletic fields, and swimming pools where 
pesticides are used to "maintain water quality."

As is often the case with pesticides, although 
nearly 4,000 pounds of Anderson’s Turf Fungicide 
were applied, the product’s active ingredient 
chlorothalonil accounts for only a small 
proportion­5 percent­of the formulation:. The 
rest consists of undisclosed "other" ingredients, 
also known as "inert" ingredients.

Despite being referred to as "inert," a term the 
EPA has acknowledged is misleading to consumers, 
these ingredients can themselves be toxic or 
possibly carcinogenic, and can enhance the 
toxicity of the active ingredient. Manufacturers 
are only legally required to reveal the active ingredients, however.

Health Dept. can grant exemptions

Where a blanket exemption has not been issued, an 
agency can be cleared to use a pesticide by the 
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

For example, Anvil 10+10, the insecticide used in 
the annual West Nile Virus spraying, contains 
piperonyl butoxide, which is listed as a possible 
human carcinogen by the EPA. Every year since the 
law came into effect, the Health Department has 
granted its Office of Vector Surveillance and 
Control a waiver for "temporary relief from the 
prohibition on the use of pesticides that may 
otherwise be prohibited from use on New York City property."

In an August 8th press release, the No Spray 
Coalition criticized the Health Department for 
granting waivers to itself. "No other agency 
reviews its application. The checks and balances 
envisioned in Local Law 37 are thus thwarted," they wrote.

Other pesticides are exempted under city-wide 
waivers each year. For example, insecticide gels 
containing fipronil and hydramethylnon both 
classified as possible human carcinogens by the 
EPA, are under regular use by NYCHA, which laid 
down 150 pounds of fipronil-based products across 
3,400 applications and 110 pounds of 
hydramethylnon products across 95 applications.

In the annual waiver letter, Daniel Kass, the 
Health Department’s deputy commissioner of 
environmental health, notes that these products 
are of minimal risk to human health because they 
can be "used in a targeted manner that limits the 
likelihood of human exposure." Likewise, Laura 
Haight, a former a senior environmental associate 
at the New York Public Interest Research Group 
(NYPIRG) who helped advance Local Law 37, notes 
that these products are typically enclosed within bait containers.

Fears can be overblown

Possible carcinogens, or even likely carcinogens, 
might not be cause for concern where exposure is 
minimal. Anvil, for example, is applied at 0.0034 
pounds per acre, Levi Fishman, deputy press 
secretary at the Health Department, explained in an email earlier this year.

"When properly used, this product poses no 
significant risks to human health. It degrades 
rapidly in sunlight, provides little or no 
residual activity, and does not accumulate in the 
environment," he wrote. Nonetheless, the city 
advises residents to bring children’s toys, 
outdoor equipment, and clothing indoors before 
spraying takes place, and to wash anything that 
has come in contact with Anvil.

Activists like Cathryn Swan of the No Spray 
coalition aren’t convinced that Anvil degrades as 
readily as the city assures. The pesticide can, 
for instance, linger longer in the soil or in 
areas shaded from sunlight. In soil, the 
half-life of sumithrin is 1-2 days, meaning it 
would degrade almost entirely in 5-10 days, but 
potentially linger much longer in bodies of 
water, according to the National Pesticide 
Information Center. No Spray has also expressed 
concern about potential ecological impacts on 
bees and aquatic organisms. Local Law 37, 
however, focuses exclusively on human health impacts..

Even where rates of exposure are greater than 
anticipated, a possible human carcinogen is not 
necessarily carcinogenic. The "possible" 
designation is applied when there is some limited 
evidence of carcinogenicity. For piperonyl 
butoxide, lab results have been mixed, with some 
studies finding cancer-causing at very high doses 
and others not finding an effect.

However, a pesticide’s risk classification can be a matter of dispute.

Dr. Brian Dementi, formerly a senior toxicologist 
at the E.P.A., was the lead scientist in charge 
of evaluating the safety of malathion, the 
pesticide New York City used before switching to Anvil.

In an independent scientific advisory panel in 
2000, Dementi testified that malathion should be 
classified as a "likely" carcinogen. But in the 
end, the agency rejected his conclusion, arguing 
that the insecticide was safe if properly used, 
and decided to designate malathion as having 
"suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity"– a lower risk classification.

When the West Nile outbreak first hit New York, 
and the Health Department was spraying malathion 
by helicopter, Dementi was conflicted, but 
ultimately believes the justification for using 
any given pesticide comes down to a risk-benefit calculation.

"It did indeed bother me," he says. "But on the 
other hand, it was preventing encephalitis. One 
always has to consider the risk assessment… Is 
there greater risk of not doing it? You’ve always 
got to discern. It’s a hard thing balancing risk versus benefit."

Though fewer than 1 percent of those infected 
develop severe symptoms, West Nile can cause 
neurological damage and death, according to the 
Center for Disease Control. Since 1999, there 
have been 317 cases of symptomatic West Nile 
infection reported in New York City, 38 of them 
fatal, according to the Health Department, a rate 
of under one case per 100,000 people.

Advocate: Notification is key

Despite the Local Law 37 exemptions, Haight, who 
worked closely with the Health Department on 
curbing pesticide use during her years at NYPIRG, 
says she is proud of the law.

"There’s no such thing as a perfect law. All laws 
are developed with compromises," she says, adding 
that she believes the Health Department has acted 
in good faith to reduce pesticide use and 
minimize risks. "We worked with a lot of places 
that passed laws, but no one’s been as vested."

"The law should be stronger," says Joel 
Kupferman, executive director and senior attorney 
at the New York Environmental Law and Justice 
Project. Its major weakness, he argues, is that 
exemptions are granted at the city level. 
Instead, requests for exemptions should be 
evaluated at the state or federal level, instead 
of by the city, Kupferman says. In addition, he 
believes that agencies offer inadequate, or 
insufficiently transparent, reporting on adverse effects.

Though New York City and activists might not see 
eye-to-eye on pesticide risks and 
classifications, Swan is asking the city to at least better inform residents.

"We’re basically saying you if you are going to 
do it, at least be giving people proper notification," she says.

In April, Swan attended meeting of Brooklyn 
Community Board 7, where a Health Department 
representative had been invited to talk about the 
upcoming West Nile Virus spraying. A resident who 
had signed up for Notify NYC email alerts 
complained that she sometimes received notice 
after the spraying had happened. Jeremy Laufer, 
the district manager, added that 24 hours notice 
was not enough, and said that the administration 
relied too much on email, rather than physical 
notices­a problem for a community where many 
households don’t have internet access.

Others in attendance wanted to know how dangerous 
these substances are, whether they were 
carcinogenic and whether they build up in the 
environment. The representative, who had only 
been on the job for three weeks at that point, wasn’t sure of the answers.

The Health Department has not responded to a 
request for comment about Local Law 37.