Mosquito Control Experts Say EPA Regs Hamper Efforts to Fight Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes

Lauretta Brown | May 11, 2016 | 5:03pm EDT
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(AP photo.) 


( – Members of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to request the help of Congress in combatting the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, particularly urging Congress to ease the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of insecticides and products being developed to kill the mosquitoes.

Karl Malamud-Roam, Public Health Pesticides Program Manager at Rutgers University, said at the “Mosquito Control to Minimize Zika Virus Risk” event that the tools in place to confront the Aedes breed of Zika-carrying mosquitoes were “okay, we will do a good job with the tools we have, they’re good tools.”

But, he added, “They’re not good enough to do wide area, consistent low-cost patrol of the Aedes.”

 “There are some challenges, these are hard mosquitoes to kill, chemical resistance is a big problem if any one class of pesticides is used too often,” he explained, adding that there “are regulatory challenges.”

“I think it’s important that you know the toolbox is safe, we know it’s safe, and that the customers know it’s safe, he said.  “But if the expense of proving safety becomes so high that products get thrown out, that’s throwing out the baby with the bath water and we have lost products.”

“I’m very concerned that we may lose products without federal help supporting the vector control toolbox,” said Roam.

Vector control is a method to limit or eradicate organisms, in this case mosquitoes, called “vectors,” which transmit disease pathogens like Zika.

Roam asked Congress to “encourage EPA to retain vector control products as part of the public good. We see vector control products a lot like the pharmaceutical industry sees vaccines. It’s in the public interest that we have a vaccine supply, and companies 12 years ago were going out of business because there’s a liability and small market share, and federal action was taken to support the private sector.”

(AP photo.) 


“We’re getting to a similar point with vector control,” he said.

Roam asked for “encouragement of an expedited review process for products that could help combat the Aedes aegypti.”

“Senator [Al] Franken (D-Minn.) has a bill right now that would give expedited review for pharmaceuticals useful against Zika,” said Roam.  “I think something similar could be very helpful to give an expedited review pathway for Aedes-control tools going through EPA.”

 “We don’t want to waste our funds because they’re limited, yet we have been required by the regulation to be wasteful of those funds,” said Steve Mulligan, manager of the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District in California's Central Valley and AMCA member.

Mulligan explained that mosquito control programs currently use chemical insecticides which have to be registered through the EPA's Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). That registration requires "stringent testing" of the insecticide to prove their safe use for the environment and for humans. 

He complained that now despite that registration process "we have another burden that we have to have a Clean Water Act NPDES permit.” 

(AP photo.) 


“They’re not pollutants,” he emphasized, “they are beneficial insecticide, beneficial products meant to be applied to water so it’s burdening the districts and taking our funds.”

Mulligan asked lawmakers to pass two bills, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act and the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, which eliminate the requirement for the additional NPDES permit for insecticides that have already been approved under FIFRA.

Mulligan further said that if “the permit would go away we could use those funds to control mosquitoes, to prevent Zika virus transmission.”

According to the CDC,  “based on current knowledge, the greatest risk for complications from Zika is to a pregnant woman’s fetus,” as the disease “has been linked to cases of microcephaly, a serious birth defect, and is a sign that the baby is born with a smaller brain, which can result in medical problems and impaired development." 

The report advises pregnant women to avoid travel to any area with Zika and “prevent mosquito bites, including covering up arms and legs and using EPA-registered insect repellent, which is safe to use during pregnancy.”

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