Members of the Anne Arundel County Council agreed last night to consider future changes for the annual mosquito control contract with the state because of objections to use of the pesticide malathion.
Council members said no change could be made in the contract covering the current mosquito season.
Opponents of the use of malathion met informally for about 45 minutes last night with several council members before the regular session. They asked the county to change its contract with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which sprays malathion to kill adult mosquitoes.
The county is paying about $50,000 for mosquito control this year, which includes several approaches to getting rid of the pest.
"There is no one sitting at this table who does not want mosquito control," said Annapolis psychotherapist Ruth Berlin, who said her health problems have been diagnosed as stemming from exposure to malathion about four years ago.
She and others said they want the county to insist that the state use more larvicides, fish that eat mosquito larvae and other preventive measures to reduce the mosquito population -- and little or no malathion.
The state does very little public education on mosquito prevention, and Ms. Berlin suggested the county take on that task if the state will not. Mosquitoes can breed and lay eggs in a gallon of standing water -- less that what can accumulate in an old tire left outside in a rainstorm, according to state entomologists.
Malathion, widely used for more than 40 years to control insects, is undergoing re-registration with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and required studies on its safety have not been completed.
Ms. Berlin and a half-dozen people with her said studies on repeated low-level doses have not been done and the spraying may not be safe. The warning label on malathion advises users not to inhale it and says it can kill aquatic life. The pesticide affects the nervous system.
The Greater Severna Park Council is seeking more information about the pesticide because some people in the community have become concerned, said Gary Allanson, a Severna Park resident who attended the meeting.
"You made your point, I think, on the facts," said Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Republican from Old Mill who promised that he and other members would read the stack of anti-malathion information the group handed out.
Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, a Republican from Arnold whose district includes Severna Park, told malathion foes that because this council has only five more meetings, any action probably would fall to members elected in November.
Because the county has turned over mosquito control to the state, she said, people who are concerned need to contact their delegate as well as council members. She said she would like to see particulars of the county's contract with the state.
Garrett County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that does not have a mosquito control contract with the state.