Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

U.S. Air Force Is Spraying 6 Million Acres With Chemicals in Response to Harvey

Popular
U.S. Air Force Is Spraying 6 Million Acres With Chemicals in Response to Harvey
U.S. Air Force

By Whitney Webb

Amid statewide efforts to clean up the aftermath left by the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Pentagon announced last week that it had dispatched C-130H Sprayers from the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing in order to "assist with recovery efforts in eastern Texas." However, these "recovery efforts" have little to do with rebuilding damaged structures or with the resettlement of evacuees. Instead, they are set to spray chemicals in order to help "control pest insect populations," which they allege pose a "health risk to rescue workers and residents of Houston."


The Pentagon has requested that the planes treat more than 6 million acres throughout the Houston area. The Air Force noted that the current effort is "expected to significantly surpass previous [spraying] missions in scope," specifically the spraying campaigns that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Naled's Toxicity Not Confined to Mosquitoes

While the Pentagon has framed its efforts to "assist" as seeking to eliminate a potential human health risk, the particular chemical it is using to control insect populations is likely to do more harm than good. According to the Air Force, the mosquito control protocol involves spraying the "Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved and regulated material, Naled," which the Air Force insists will not be used in amounts large enough to "cause any concern for human health."

However, the insecticide Naled, manufactured and sold by a strategic partner of Monsanto, is currently banned in the European Union due to the "unacceptable risk" it presents to human health.

Naled is a known neurotoxin in animals and humans, as it inhibits acetylcholinesterase—an enzyme essential to nerve function and communication—and has even been known to have caused paralysis. Mounting scientific evidence, including a recent Harvard study, has also pointed to Naled's responsibility for the mass die-off of North American bees. Just one day of Naled spraying in South Carolina killed more than 2.5 million bees last year.

Yet, the most concerning consequence Naled poses for human health is the chemical's ability to cross the placental barrier—meaning that Naled freely crosses from mother to fetus. A study conducted at the University of Oslo found that Naled's breakdown product, dichlorvos, caused a 15 percent decrease in the brain size of newborn guinea pigs when their mothers were exposed to Naled for only three days during pregnancy. Doctors from Puerto Rico have also claimed that Naled harms fetuses.

Studies in the U.S. have also shown that pregnant women exposed to Naled had a 60 percent higher chance of having a child with an autism-spectrum disorder.

This is especially troubling given that the manufacturer of Naled, Sumimoto Chemical Corp., is also the manufacturer of the mosquito larvicide SumiLarv, a chemical now believed to have been the real culprit behind the spike in birth defects in Brazil originally attributed to the Zika virus.

At the height of the Zika scare, a group of Argentine doctors, Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados, published a report citing a pesticide used to kill mosquito larva as the real cause of the birth defects. According to the report, the area where most of the affected Brazilian families live, Pernambuco, had its drinking water treated for 18 months with a chemical larvicide that produces fatal birth defects in mosquitoes.

Pernambuco subsequently reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly in 2015. In contrast, in Colombia, public health officials diagnosed more than 17,000 pregnant women with Zika last year, yet only 18 cases of Zika-associated microcephaly were reported—less than 0.2 percent of the total.

In addition, the Air Force's characterization of Naled as an "EPA approved and regulated material" omits the important fact that the EPA is currently re-evaluating the chemical for safety. According to the EPA's website, "the EPA expects to issue new human health and ecological risk assessments for Naled before the end of 2017." Scientists and concerned citizens have noted that Naled will likely be banned as the EPA found it to harm 22 out of 28 endangered species exposed to it.

Agrochem Corp Pressures to Keep Naled on the Market

However, political pressure could keep it on the market. Such pressure was manifest in last year's "Zika Vector Control Act," which passed the House but failed in the Senate and narrowly missed becoming law. If it had been passed, the act would have exempted mosquito-control operations from environmental regulations and would have kept Naled on the market regardless of the EPA's decision. It also would have ended monitoring of and limits to pesticide use.

Though the act ultimately failed to become law, there will likely be another effort at preventing the chemical from being banned by the EPA. It is currently "one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States for aerial mosquito control" and has been applied to "about 16 million acres per year in the continental United States."

Given its wide use, the chemical's manufacturer and its strategic partner Monsanto will likely want to keep such a profitable product on the market, lest they face a mass drop in sales and revenue.

Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.

A group of climate activists that have been cycling from the North of the country in stages to draw attention to the climate case are arriving to the Court of Justice on the day that the climate lawsuit against Shell starts in The Hague, on December 1st, 2020. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Representing more than 17,000 claimants who support climate action, the international organization Friends of the Earth on Tuesday opened its case against fossil fuel giant Shell at The Hague by demanding that a judge order the corporation to significantly reduce its carbon emissions in the next decade.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Eat Just, Inc. announced that its cultured chicken has been approved for sale in Singapore as an ingredient in chicken bites. The company has developed other cultured chicken formats as well. Eat Just

As concern mounts over the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, Singapore has issued the world's first regulatory approval for lab-grown meat.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Wildfires are seen burning out of control on November 30, 2020 on Fraser Island, Australia. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services / Getty Images

The world's largest sand island has been on fire for the past six weeks due to a campfire, and Australia's firefighters have yet to prevent flames from destroying the fragile ecosystem.

Read More Show Less
A plane sprays pesticide over the Wynwood neighborhood in the hope of controlling and reducing the number of mosquitos, some of which may be capable of spreading the Zika virus on Aug. 6, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A national nonprofit revealed Tuesday that testing commissioned by the group as well as separate analysis conducted by Massachusetts officials show samples of an aerially sprayed pesticide used by the commonwealth and at least 25 other states to control mosquito-borne illnesses contain toxic substances that critics call "forever chemicals."

Read More Show Less
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plants a tree as part of Trees That Count, a project to help New Zealand make a positive impact on climate change, on June 30, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

The government of New Zealand declared a climate emergency on Wednesday, a symbolic step recognizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions of substantial global warming if emissions do not fall.

Read More Show Less