This practice poses potential hazards to residents. The use of Anvil is based on fundamentally flawed thinking on what is safe and what is dangerous. I will confine my remarks in this brief article to comments on Anvil. My principal points also apply to most herbicide and pesticide use, including the chemicals used on lawns by thousands of homeowners countywide.
I maintain there are reasonable grounds for concern² that repeated toxic exposure over years in vulnerable individuals may be a contributing cause to chronic illness and premature death.
Current health care practices in the United States are based on a quasi-scientific dogma that insists harm must be proven before a substance can be considered dangerous. The precautionary principle proposes we should have to prove no harm before a potentially harmful substance or practice is allowed.
Many of you, having read thus far, may decide that these two points are good common sense and sufficient reason to stop the spraying. I agree.
Unfortunately, precaution and common sense remain pieces of grit in the oil of conventional governance and the quasi-scientific dogma it assembles to support its policies. The financial ties between corporate interests and the scientific community further drive arguments fashioned to support these hazardous practices.
Adverse Long-term Effects in Humans
Many scientists are rightfully concerned about the risk of harm to individuals who may have repeated exposures to chemical toxins over time. Cumulative exposure over a lifetime to chemical toxins, starting in the womb, and the risk of synergistic adverse effects on human health, certainly constitute reasonable grounds for concern about the unregulated use of these chemicals.
Mainstream medicine is reluctant to face the fact that disease may result from repeated gene-environment interactions over many years. Predicting adverse reactions across a wide population is costly and time consuming. Individuals within the population may be vulnerable because of a combination of genetic predisposition and prior toxic exposures. Identifying vulnerable individuals is difficult, if not impossible.
The major active component of Anvil is sumithrin, a so-called pyrethroid, which may be associated with liver damage, breast cell proliferation, lowered sperm counts, cognitive problems and hormone disruption (“endocrine disruption”).³ It may also harm or kill other wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and grasshoppers. Health problems in humans can take years to surface so it can be very difficult to establish a connection, especially when Anvil exposure may be only one of many insults to the body over time. Chemical companies, like cigarette makers, are aware of this lag time and complexity, and naturally exploit it to avoid liability.
Mainstream medicine has trouble getting its arms around the issue of repeated toxin exposures in vulnerable individuals over time. The maladaptive acute care model that still drives chronic disease care is preoccupied with finding single causes, then treating them with drugs and surgery. The very methodologies employed to support this approach are ill-suited to the multi-factorial, long latency realities of chronic disease that may result from repeated toxin exposures over many years. As a result, hard questions about the safety of potentially hazardous substances don’t get asked, because they are difficult to answer without great cost and delay.
Fundamental Flaws in the Prevailing Science
As matters stands at present, when scientists look at a pesticide like Anvil, they attempt to disprove the null hypothesis. This stacks the deck in favor of avoiding false positive results. In common parlance, scientists are afraid of incorrectly showing harm when there is none. They are less concerned about incorrectly showing no harm. This bias favors the ill-advised and premature use of potentially harmful chemicals while favoring the bottom lines of chemical manufacturers eager to put product out into the market.
The available scientific evidence consists of animal studies that examine the effects of solitary exposure to pyrethrins and human studies are limited to a small number of chemical workers. These do not come close to approximating the realities of cumulative toxic load from multiple toxic agents acting synergistically over time in the bodies of potentially vulnerable individuals.
Compartmentalized, reductionist science with its linear, mechanistic propositions is an inadequate base for making wise policy decisions on the potential impact of complex processes. It needs to be enhanced with the dynamic, emergent properties of systems science. This is not yet being done. In the meantime, caution and informed decision making should prevail.
Let’s Stop Rolling the Dice
There are many unanswered questions about the use of Anvil in our communities. What are the true benefits of Anvil? How many mosquitoes does it really kill? Have meaningful measurable outcomes been recorded, such as how many people are spared from disease, what disease, and how severe? How many lives does it save, if any? Who are the vulnerable individuals who might be harmed years later? Do we really have adequate proof of no harm? Who benefits the most from spraying? corporations? town governments? Are we gambling with the future of our children?
1. Based on phone conversation with Berkshire Mosquito Control
2. European Commission on the Precautionary Principle, Copenhagen, 2002
To stop spraying directly in front of your property:
1. Send a registered letter to your town clerk by March 1 of each year.
To get spraying stopped in your town:
1. For a basic overview of town meeting procedures in Massachusetts (condensed below), check out Massachusetts’s Citizen Information Service website provided by our state government at www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cistwn/twnidx.htm. You must contact your Town Clerk or Town Meeting Moderator to find out specific information and procedures for annual and special meetings in your town.
2. Get to know your town selectman. Request that they place the topic on an upcoming meeting warrant.* Get ten registered voters to sign a written request (physical addresses recommended) to insert an article in a warrant, and deliver to your selectmen before the warrant is closed. Check out a past annual report (which will contain warrants) as a sample, or ask your town clerk for assistance in drafting the article.
3. If necessary, citizens may demand that an article be inserted in a warrant by the Selectman for a special Town Meeting, if you obtain the signatures of 100 registered voters or 10 percent of the total number of voters (whichever is lesser).
4. If necessary, voters may call a special town meeting by creating a signed written request including the signatures and addresses of 200 registered voters, or 20 percent of the total number of registered voters in your town (whichever number is less). Deliver this request to your Selectman and a special meeting must be called within 45 days.
5. Note that any member of the public may attend a Town Meeting and the town’s registered voters may vote at any open town meeting. Check out your town’s website for more information, if they have one.
*A warrant lists the meeting’s time, place, and agenda - a town’s meeting’s action is not valid unless the subject was listed on the warrant. Note that warrants must be made available to the public for viewing at least 7 days before an annual meeting and 14 days before a special meeting.