Here’s a great idea for your home. Install a sprinkler system that sprays pesticide mist twice a day, all summer long to control nuisance mosquitoes. The system uses quarter inch tubing a metal spray nozzles buried in the yard like a lawn sprinkler. A small tank and attached pump operate for 30 seconds at dawn and at dusk. The pesticides are pyrethroids, synthetic versions of a naturally occurring compound derived from chrysanthemums. The natural origin of pyrethrum is always touted as a sign of safety. If it grows in a chrysanthemum, it must be safe. Like botulinum toxin or the mushroom Amanita phalloides (the Death Cap)?
Well, never mind that. More importantly, pyrethroid pesticides used for killing adult mosquitoes don’t just have pyrethroids in them. If they did, they’d work poorly. The also contain a synergist, piperonyl butoxide (PBO). The role of PBO is to interfere with the insect’s ability to detoxify the pyrethrum and it does this by inhibiting a cytochrome P450 enzyme in the mosquito. Humans and many other animals also use the cytochrome system for phase I. detoxification and there is now concern that PBO from pesticide spraying may be potentiating toxicity of other agents in the environment against non-target organisms (i.e., non-mosquitoes). Pyrethroids are also toxic to fish and exquisitely toxic to bees. It would seem to be common sense not to put biologically active compounds continuously into your home environment at high volume designed to kill living things. Or so it would seem to us.
But not to everyone:
The sprinklers spray Ed and Fran Smith’s Burlington yard twice a day, all summer long, but it’s not water jetting from those nozzles. It’s pesticide.
The Smiths paid $2,500 last year for the system, which works on a timer and sprays a mist of mild pesticide in the mornings and evenings, when mosquitoes are most active.
“We love it. We’re in our yard all the time now,” Fran Smith said. “Once in a while you might see a mosquito, but I haven’t been bit since we got it.”
Their boys, ages 13 and 9, now swim in the backyard pool and play on the sand volleyball court without needing bug spray. Ed Smith even sets up his movie projector and a screen, to show films to his children in the yard.
“The kids get their little sleeping bags to lay on, and we watch movies,” Fran Smith said. (Boston Globe)
Fear of mosquito-borne diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile Fever have become an added incentive for some to install these systems even though they haven’t been shown to interrupt the transmission of these arboviral diseases. Doing so involves delicate psychological gymnastics about competing risks.
Fran Smith said she much prefers to have pyrethroids sprayed along the perimeter of her lawn twice a day to frequently slathering her sons with bug sprays containing substances such as DEET and other potentially noxious chemicals.
It’s a good thing they won’t be exposed to any noxious chemicals by spraying pesticides in the air twice a day, every day all summer, so the kids can roll around in the pesticide laden grass.