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FEMA Is Sending Air Force Planes To Rain Down Insecticides On Texas

Is the destruction caused by hurricane Harvey and the health hazards created by widespread flooding about to be compounded by an ill-advised effort to decimate mosquito populations? We have seen the heavy-handed application of insecticides before. Last year in Florida, civilian and commercial aircraft were used to blast Miami neighborhoods with the insecticide Naled

This campaign, initiated by FEMA and the CDC, will be on a much larger scale. According to CBS News, the U.S. Airforce will be flying C-130 Hercules cargo planes that have been specially modified to conduct aerial spraying. The FEMA coordinated aerial bombardment will need every bit of the massive four engine military aircraft’s 45,000-pound cargo capacity. The aerial campaign is expected to inundate 600,000 acres in the Houston area with the organophospate insecticide Naled. 

Naled, which was also sprayed in Florida, can have adverse effects on your nervous system. Organophosphates are also linked with shortened pregnancies, lowered IQ and increased risk of ADD. Tellingly, beekeepers in the targeted areas were advised to cover their colonies and concerned residents were advised to stay indoors during evening hours. 

Naled is banned in the European Union (EU), and when residents in Puerto Rico found out the CDC was going to use the chemical against Zika-carrying mosquitoes there, the streets filled with protesters. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla finally forced the CDC to take the shipments back. The CDC is also involved in the Texas effort and is working with FEMA to target the flooded areas where mosquitos are known to breed. 

The Houston spraying campaign began Thursday night and it seems likely that the U.S. Airforce Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing and the massive C-130 cargo planes are being used to expedite the completion of this project before public backlash derails the effort. A county press release defended both the insecticide and the operation to suppress mosquito-borne diseases. 

The desire to prevent mosquito-borne diseases remains at a fevered pitch because of the Zika “manufactroversy.” Zika was an obscure virus until the media fanned the flames of fear. The threat of Zika resonated because it was tied to visible birth defects, is mosquito borne, affects pregnant women and can be sexually transmitted. Little attention has been paid to Brazilian health officials walking back their worst case scenarios and conceding that Zika alone was not responsible for the rise in birth defects.

Many experts agree that the threat of an epidemic outbreak of Zika virus on continental U.S. soil is virtually nonexistent. So you needn’t go dousing your backyard in chemicals in an attempt to stay safe from the Zika virus (whose connection to birth defects is still being explored). 

If you find bug bites intolerable there are some natural ways to repel mosquitos. Draining standing water, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths, children's toys and so on, is important. This is where mosquitoes breed, so if you eliminate standing water you'll eliminate many mosquitoes.

Neem-based products are another viable alternative that can safely keep mosquitos at bay. Citronella oil and geraniol can also be used, and both are safe for the whole family, including infants. Products containing either 20 percent picaridin or 30 percent oil of lemon and eucalyptus have also been shown to outperform DEET in tests.