Are the Chemicals Used Against Zika Dangerous to Us?

Some news reports raise concerns that the chemicals used to control Zika-carrying mosquitoes may be as harmful as the virus.

Even Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist and author of the book Grain Brain, notes studies that show exposure of pregnant women to some commercial pesticides may result in a risk of autism for their child.

Unfortunately, aerial, truck-mounted and backpack spraying of mosquitoes and their larvae is a very effective way of rapidly killing the insects and reducing the spread of Zika.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local officials decide which insecticides to use, based on the results of resistance testing.

Per the CDC, aerial spraying for mosquitoes is not experimental and has been used effectively for many years.

Throughout the CDC's aerial spraying site, one particular phrase is key. "When aerial spraying is done correctly . . ."

  • aerial spraying of insecticides is not harmful to human health, as only a couple tablespoons of chemical are sprayed per acre of land. 
  • It does not trigger asthma attacks
  • It is not harmful to animals.
  • It is not harmful to wildlife or the environment. 
  • It will not contaminate water or soil.
  • It can be done in ways to minimize harm to bees (spraying at dawn/dusk when bees are in their hives, advising beekeepers to cover the hives). 
Presumably, spraying is conducted by properly trained and licensed professionals.

While a variety of EPA-registered chemicals are used to control mosquitoes, the two most people are concerned about are Naled and Bti.

Naled is an insecticide used to control adult mosquitoes. However, it is supposed to break down very quickly and per EPA, should not pose any risks for adults or children.

Bti is a bacterium that produces toxins affecting mosquito larvae. Per EPA it has no toxicity to people, crops or water supplies. The toxins specifically only affect mosquitoes, black flies and fungus gnats.


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