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Consumer Alert This Holiday- Mosquitoes And Repellents That Kill Them

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, August 29, 2008 2:59 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: EPA, FDA, Pyrethrins, Defective Products, Toxic Substances, Pesticides, Product Liability

Consumer Alert about pyrethrins and West Nile virus.

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IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ feeding mosquito/ author: doug4537

 

The three-day Labor Day holiday is in full swing and people should do what they can to avoid mosquito bites to reduce the risk of West Nile virus. 

A second person has died this month in Orange County, California from West Nile.  The man was 64-years old.

Southern California is facing the highest risk for West Nile since 2004, when 710 people became infected and 21 died.

And George Cody, 75, from Carle Place on Long Island, New York died from West Nile on Monday. His widow describes him as “independent, vibrant, constantly on the go, never stood still”.

Cody, who was still working in his plumbing business, began to feel ill on August 7th.  He had trouble walking and became totally paralyzed from the neck down.

His widow asks Newsday why Nassau County does not spray insecticide. "Believe me, I'm all for the environment, but I think human life has to come first. I don't want to give [up] my husband for a tree."

West Nile is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito which contracts the virus by feeding on infected birds. Symptoms include a fever and headache, body aches and sometimes a rash and swollen lymph glands. 

Ground and aerial spray of pesticides is one way to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. It’s also advised to eliminate any standing water that serves as a breeding ground. And many will turn to insect repellents to keep bugs away this holiday weekend.

But what kind of repellent?

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has just published “Perils of the New Pesticides” an investigation into a decade of Environmental Protection Agency adverse reaction reports. 

Pyrethrins, which come from chrysanthemums, are found in thousands of consumer products as are their synthetic relative, pyrethroids.

Just check the labels of Hartz Dog Flea & Tick Killers, Raid Ant and Roach Killer, automatic misting devices, lawn-care products, insect repellant clothing, and tick collars. Pyrethrins are sometimes used by municipalities for mosquito control. 

They were advertised as a “safer” pesticide, believed to be less toxic than organophosphates, derived from nerve gas.

But the number of human health problems including sever reactions attributed to pyrethrins and pryethroids has increased about 300 percent over ten years, according to the CPI investigation

Human health problems from pyrethrins account for more adverse reports than from any other class of pesticides, about one-quarter of all fatal, major and moderate human reactions in the U.S. in 2007.  Reactions include skin irritation, an asthmatic attack and 50 fatalities.

Among the reactions cited:

  • The case of two-and-a-half-year-old  Amber Nickol McKeown who was treated with Osco Lice Treatment  Shampoo for head lice.  The girl’s chest turned red, she labored to breathe, her skin peeled off in clumps. When the hospital staff saw burns over 60 percent of her body she was in respiratory distress. Within 72 hours of her bath, she died. An autopsy showed her death was triggered by exposure to pyrethrin.
  • A 37-year-old woman who died after she gave her dog a flea bath
     
  • A 39-year-old woman who died after applying a flea treatment to her two dogs
     
  • An 11-year-old girl who died after washing her dog with a pet shampoo
     
  • A 48-year-old woman who died after using a bug spray

In 2003, the FDA began requiring manufacturers to print product labels warning individuals with asthma or ragweed allergies to talk to their doctors before using lice shampoos or other products.

But the EPA has yet to require the stricter warning labels. Instead it warns people to stay out of rooms where aerosol bug spray has just been used.   

The EPA doesn’t specify whether the poisonings came from ingestion, inhalation or direct skin contact.

The EPA already considers permethrin, a popular pyrethroid, a “likely carcinogen” through oral exposure.

The agency had not planned to examine the health effects of the chemicals until 2010, but Debra Edwards of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs says the process will be expedited as a result of the Center’s investigation.

You can look up a product on the Center’s web site, so see if any adverse reports have come into the EPA.

 Amber’s parents brought a wrongful death suit against Qualis, of Des Moines, Iowa, and four retailers and distributors in 2002, claiming the child died even though they followed the instructions on the label.

The case was settled for an undisclosed amount last year. #


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