02 Jul Opting Out of Toxic PFAS in Mosquito Control Pesticides
Mosquitoes are a nuisance, but poisoning from PFAS in mosquito spray lasts forever
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are known as ‘forever chemicals’ and have emerged as a global contaminant issue, associated with both human and ecosystem health concerns. There are over 9,000 PFAS formulations found in many products, including cookware (Teflon), carpets, food packaging and flame retardants. PFAS does not organically break down in nature and remains in our bodies forever. These chemicals have been linked to health issues including liver damage, reproductive issues, and cancers, and affect growth, learning and behavior of infants and older children.
One would assume, it would be an unconscionable decision for the state of Maryland to use possible PFAS-contaminated pesticides in Maryland’s annual mosquito control program that could impact hundreds of thousands of Marylanders. Over 2,000 Maryland communities sign up for the June-October MDA program and many of these communities are now being sprayed weekly through the summer season. During at least the past few years, the Md Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) has unknowingly applied a pesticide seasonally, Permanone 30-30, which was found to be contaminated with PFAS.
Here’s why we should all be very concerned.
Several months ago, the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) had a lab test performed on Permanone 30-30, the mosquito control product used by MDA for its program. This independent lab testing revealed the product actually contained 3,500 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS; mosquito control products are not supposed to contain PFAS. For reference, the EPA’s lifetime exposure limit is 70 ppt; expert and former director of The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Linda Birnbaum, PhD, has stated that the true lifetime exposure limit should be .1 ppt. MDA’s mosquito control product contained PFAS exceeding the EPA’s own lifetime exposure limit fifty times over!
In response to the lab’s findings, the US EPA halted the use of Permanone 30-30 and is working to assess whether the product was contaminated by the container it was transported or stored in, or whether PFAS was added as an inert ingredient or surfactant to the pesticide. Maryland quickly replaced Permamone 30-30 with two similar pesticides that contain the same active ingredient, Permethrin. Other than the manufacturer claiming these two products are not contaminated by a container, there have been no assurances by EPA or MDA, nor testing done to check whether or not the two replacement chemicals similarly contain PFAS. Starting Memorial Day Weekend, over 2,000 communities began treatment with these two pesticides that have yet to be tested for PFAS, potentially putting thousands of residents at risk.
In order to ensure our state’s residents are protected, testing must be done by MDA or the EPA on all potential replacements prior to any further use to ensure the products and their containers do not contain PFAS.
In the meantime, it may be in the best interest for the 2,100 communities in 16 counties that are signed up for Maryland’s Mosquito Control Program to consider opting out of the MDA program altogether. A community or HOA signed up for the MDA program can opt out of any further applications this year by contacting the Mosquito Control Administration manager Brian Pendergast at 410-841-5870.
Even if a community will not opt out, individuals can opt out by requesting a buffer zone of 300 feet around their property. Download the individual opt out form.
Opting out does not mean making ourselves and our families tasty meals for mosquitoes that at times do carry disease. If you choose to opt out, there are still plenty of ways to mitigate your local mosquito population, such as getting rid of any sources of stagnant water that serve as breeding pools, using fans, citronella candles and effective non-toxic repellants including CDC recommended Eucalyptus Lemon Oil (ELO), found to be as effective as DEET. For more information, see our Managing Mosquitoes Without Pesticides fact sheet.
Also, be sure to contact your local and state representatives about pushing for more stringent testing. If this continues, it can have untold harm on the public health of Marylanders.
For more information on opting out and controlling mosquito populations, see these links:
- Opting out of Maryland’s mosquito control program
- Controlling mosquitoes safely
- Read the recent Bay Journal article on this problem