Last month an article about the health effects of pyrethroid insecticides was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine). You can read a summary here and a news article here. The peer reviewed article describes the results of a study of 2116 nationally representative American adults who were followed for 17 years. At the beginning of the study each participant had a urine test for pyrethroids. During the study 246 of the participants died, and those with higher levels of pyrethroids at the start of the study were more likely to die. The group was divided into thirds (low, medium, and high levels of pyrethroids), and those in the high group were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those in the low group. Those in the high group were 1.5 times more likely to die of any cause compared to the low group.
The insecticide most commonly used by BLSG to spray along roads to kill mosquitoes is a pyrethroid (permethrin). Pyrethroids are in many household and garden products including bug spray (e.g., Raid), tick and flea collars for pets, pet shampoo, home and garden sprays, head lice shampoo, and treated outdoor clothing. That’s apparently why most people in the recent study tested positive for some level of pyrethroids. People generally do not react badly to exposure to low levels of pyrethroids, so this group of pesticides has been considered reasonably safe. But this study is the first to carefully follow people and make the connection between pyrethroid exposure and long-term health outcomes. This study should be repeated with larger sample groups (and maybe kids, too), but it suggests that the long-term, low level exposure to pyrethroids that many of us are probably experiencing right now could be harming us.
Let’s hope the guys driving the BLSG spray trucks know how to minimize their exposure to the pesticide, and let’s hope that the BLSG leadership and their new public relations effort begins to be more honest about the potential health impacts of their operation. It’s important for residents in the BLSG District to have confidence that BLSG leadership is telling them everything they need to know to make decisions about how much exposure to insecticides is safe.