Foes push county on pesticide

August 01, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Foes of the pesticide malathion will ask the Anne Arundel County Council to do what it can to end the mosquito-spraying program.

Backed by a petition with more than 300 signatures, a committee of about six people will ask county officials tonight to renegotiate the county's agreement so that the state uses more larvicides.

"We are asking that they withdraw the contract the way it is presently written up and that they rewrite it to use everything but malathion," said Ruth Berlin of Annapolis, whose health problems have been diagnosed as caused by malathion. "We'd like them to not use malathion until there is further research done on it.

"The reality is that there is a lot of concern in this county," Ms. Berlin, a psychotherapist, said.

Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said there have been no studies done of either long-term health risks or repeated low-dosage risks of malathion. But preliminary and anecdotal information would indicate the pesticide may cause neurological, respiratory and other problems in people, he said.

The citizens' group will ask the council to begin a public education campaign urging county residents to eliminate standing water. Even a gallon of pooled water is enough for a mosquito breeding site, according to state entomologists.

Residents also would be asked to try to attract purple martins to neighborhoods. Purple martins and bats consume mosquitoes.

The county turned its mosquito control program over to the state two years ago. The county and city of Annapolis pay $52,000 to the Maryland Department of Agriculture to do the task. The state uses a variety of methods to kill mosquito larvae and impede their development and sprays malathion to control adult mosquitoes.

On Friday, Ms. Berlin sent a letter asking the state not to spray malathion within one mile of her house. The Department of Agriculture maintains a registry of people who do not want spraying near their residences. But a 300-foot buffer is used. State entomologists say that is the distance the spray is effective against mosquitoes.

Ms. Berlin said her health problems, including blurry vision and neural disorders, have been diagnosed as stemming from exposure to the pesticide when she lived in California four years ago. Whenever an area as much as a mile away is sprayed with malathion, her problems become more severe.

"She is a citizen, and she asked for the opportunity to explain the situation to us. Certainly I am willing to sit down and listen," said County Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks.

The session, which Mr. Middlebrooks described as an informational meeting, will occur before the regular council meeting and is expected to last about 30 minutes.

"I want to hear what she has to say," Mr. Middlebrooks said.

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