What’s the buzz? The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is working its way through the five boroughs in its yearly late-summer pesticide spraying campaign, coming to the West Side this Thursday.
The DOHMH initiative, which has been spraying throughout Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn over the course of the summer, will make its way downtown from the Bronx through zip code 10019 on Thursday evening, spraying outdoors from 8:30pm to 6am the following morning (with a rain date set for Monday 9/19). The map released by NYC Health shows that the pesticide will be used everywhere north of W57th Street on Manhattan’s West Side The city is required to inform the public at least 24 hours before the pesticide event.
The DOHMH uses two pesticide control methods – trucks that spray adulticide (otherwise known as pesticide to kill adult mosquitoes) in residential areas and parks, and aerial larvicide – helicopters that spray eco-friendly pesticide over marshes and other natural areas to kill young mosquitoes. The city does not spray aerial larvicide in residential areas. In this treatment, they will be using the pesticide Duet.
Officials have emphasized that “when used correctly, pesticides pose no significant health risks to people or their pets. No reported diseases in people or pets have been linked with the use of pesticides in West Nile virus control efforts since 1999” but those who are sensitive to certain chemicals may experience short-term eye or throat irritation. In flyers posted around the area, the city advises: “During spraying: Stay indoors whenever possible. You can keep air conditioners on. While it is not necessary to do so, you may close air conditioner vents or use your air conditioner’s recirculation mode.”
Anyone who has a stronger reaction to pesticides should call the NYC Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).
The New York City Mosquito Control program began in 1999 after the city experienced a significant outbreak of encephalitis caused by West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease previously uncommon in the western hemisphere. In 1999, 59 cases of encephalitis, meningitis or acute flaccid paralysis were detected in the New York City metropolitan area alone, and cases stemming from the West Nile Virus have reappeared every year since – with 377 cases and 47 deaths total documented between 1999 and 2021 in New York City residents.
According to the DOHMH, in recent years mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika virus infections have been diagnosed in New Yorkers who traveled to affected areas in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Regarding health concerns, the DOHMH conducted an Environmental Impact Study between 2001 and 2017, concluding that the low-level pesticides have less of an adverse effect on public health than the risks of mosquito-borne diseases. The department has stated that it will continue to monitor the effects of pesticides on people and pets.
W42ST also asked the DOHMH about the effects of pesticide spray on the ever-present spotted lanternfly, and will report if we hear back.