September 14, 2017
Hurricane Harvey’s devastating floods, which inundated vast tracks of neighborhoods in August and brought with it the chance of toxic leaks has raised concern recently about another environmental risk: the rise in mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika and West Nile. Southern U.S. locations are still dealing with lingering flooding and in an effort to be proactive, the Federal Environmental Management Agency says it plans to start spraying insecticide over the Houston area. It also has its eye on South Florida, which is already considered a natural breeding area for mosquitoes.
Many aerial sprays contain an organophosphate insecticide, which the Centers for Disease Control says is safe to use in populated areas. While FEMA and Texas Health and Human Services haven’t published what insecticide it will be aerial spraying, organophosphates are often the treatment of choice because of their low toxicity to humans.
But they are a problem for bees and by extension, for honey producers, which Houston’s surrounding countryside does support.
And widespread spraying for mosquitoes isn’t necessarily a simple answer for eradicating diseases like Zika, West Nile and dengue, researchers point out. It doesn’t stop the mosquito from breeding the next year or in the years following and the program costs millions of dollars to maintain (Many parts of Florida have maintained spray regimens for decades, unable to block the returning spread of West Nile and other diseases.)