No health effects from apple moth spraying

April 10, 2008 8:54:32 PM PDT
State environmental health experts released a report on Thursday, on the apple moth spraying. They found illnesses reported in the South Bay and Central Coast could not be conclusively linked to that spraying. However, not everyone's satisfied with the review.

The researchers had a difficult time collecting information on the illnesses. In the end they found inconclusive evidence on whether or not the spraying made people sick.

The light brown apple moth is causing a lot of pain in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. Farmers say it is a big threat to the State's $32 billion dollar agricultural industry. Hundreds of people say they were made sick by the aerial spraying from September and November last year.

"Most of the symptoms that were reported were eye and skin irritation or respiratory irritation and those are fairly common symptoms that could come from a number of causes," said Sam Delson Deputy Director of OEHHA.

Researchers from the State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment analyzed a total of 463 illness reports.

More than 90-percent of those didn't include enough information, like when and where the symptoms started, to help in the study.

"We're not saying people didn't experience these symptoms, we're just saying that there was not enough data available to demonstrate they were linked. Just because one thing follows another doesn't mean the first thing caused it," said Delson.

The spray is made of pheromones and doesn't kill the moths, only confuses the males to keep them from mating.

Some environmental groups have been positive about the lack of a highly toxic insecticide in the spray, but don't like it dropped from the sky.

"Simply the stress and concern that it will inevitably cause among a population that they're being sprayed by something beyond their control," said Margaret Reeves, Ph.D, Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network.

State AG officials say they only sprayed 3 ounces per acre, that's about the size of a football field. The spray is two-thirds water, meaning only 1 ounce of the pheromone per acre.

Santa Clara County will avoid aerial spraying plan and instead use twist ties on trees and ground spraying to eradicate its small moth population.

Flower shop owner Mary O'Connor has started a petition to stop it from happening.

"They seem to not want to listen to the voice of the people," Mary O'Connor, Owner of Out of the Weeds Flowers.

San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin Counties are already scheduled for spraying this summer, but public health officials say they are a working on an outreach program with local medical facilities to help make it easier for people to report symptoms related to the spraying.


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