When Will it End? NYC Renews its Toxic Pesticide Spray Program to Kill Mosquitoes Said to be Carrying West Nile Virus

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided last week to comply with the order of the U.S. Court of Appeals to finally ban the widely used pesticide Chlorpyrifos. And, the fight against Monsanto’’s Roundup (now owned by Bayer) scores courtroom victory after victory. But New York City’s Mayor has decided to renew the city’s toxic pesticide spraying over its people and environs to kill mosquitoes said to be carrying West Nile Virus.

Large areas of the city, including my neighborhood in Brooklyn, were sprayed over the last few weeks.

The NYC spray program was initiated by Mayor Giuliani in 1999, who ran it from his bunker on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center #7 under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Management. It continued under Bloomberg, and now by de Blasio. The spraying program has never been publicly reviewed by any city agency.

This year, a new pesticides law passed the NY City Council unanimously. It was intended to greatly reduce the use of pesticides. Yet the NYC Department of Health continues to issue to itself waivers from the provisions of the City’s anti-pesticide laws, thereby setting into motion the spraying of toxic pesticides in residential areas and public parks and streets!

The city has not specified which pesticide it is using. It is among three: Anvil 10+10, Duet and Bayer’s DeltaGard, and exhibits nary a qualm as to how the toxic sprays intersect with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anvil 10+10 is a pyrethroid comprised of four ingredients: sumithrin; piperonyl butoxide; polyethylbenzene, also known as heavy aromatic solvent naptha (petroleum); and “white mineral oil,” also known as “hydrotreated light paraffinic petroleum distillate.” It is toxic to bees and fish and kills natural predators of the mosquito, including dragonflies, bats, frogs, and birds. Sumithrin is a suspected gastrointestinal, kidney and liver toxicant and a suspected neurotoxicant. Piperonyl butoxide is listed as a suspected carcinogen. These are just a few of the known health issues related to these pesticides. Pyrethroids are also known endocrine disrupters.

Meanwhile, Deltamethrin (DeltaGard) has “caused neurobehavioral effects and/or neuropathological changes in animal studies.The toxic effects of Deltamethrin are related to transient hyperactivity typical for pyrethroid neurotoxicity.” Even there, Bayer only reported the safety and efficacyof the so-called “active ingredient” which, is a fraction of the entire formulation. No studies of chronic neurotoxic or other synergistic effects are referenced or considered. As we’ve learned from the multi-billion-dollar lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto’s “Roundup”, the “active ingredient” is but a fraction of the entire formulation.

Joel Kupferman, Esq., executive director of the NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, and Counsel to the No Spray Coalition, blasts the City administration: “NYC fails again to warn the populace of Anvil’s deleterious effects. Once again City officials are disingenuous, relying on outdated science and impact reviews, rubber stamping waiver requests, failing once again to encourage incident reporting and issuing advisories to the public health community. The health threat is aggravated and heightened by the Covid and Climate Crises.”

In the year 2000, Kupferman filed a lawsuit against the City on behalf of the No Spray Coalition as the lead plaintiff. The Coalition and was joined by Beyond Pesticides, Disabled in Action, and Save Organic Standards as co-Plaintiffs. In 2006 a federal judge ruled that the City of New York was in violation of the Clean Water Act and by 2007, having lost its key point in the case, the City felt compelled to negotiate a settlement.

Yet Mayor de Blasio sprays on.

When challenged a few years ago, the Mayor’s “correspondence coordinator” for the Department of Health wrote:

Thorough environmental review and epidemiologic analyses conducted subsequent to spray events have shown that the public in general is not expected to experience symptoms given the low level of exposure that may occur during the spraying events.”

This, despite the hundreds of complaints from New Yorkers that have been filed, and despite the claim made by the Mayor’s office, the City has never performed a “thorough environmental review and epidemiologic analyis” of the pesticide spraying! None. The City apparently interprets the many individuals who have registered complaints about being sprayed in the face or caught in the fogging, as experiencing “low level(s) of exposure”.

The Mayor’s office also stated:

“we have never seen a reported illness in people or pets associated with the use of this product in our West Nile virus control efforts since 1999,” which is when Giuliani declared the organophosphate then being sprayed, Malathion, as “perfectly safe.”

Is such a statement believable? Not a single reported illness, the City says today echoing prior administrations. Thousands of people have reported that they were sickened by the spray – none of them count? Some have testified that their pets died. But City officials say they couldn’t find anyone who was sickened by the spraying.

These are the same officials, agencies and Health Department that certified the air as safe after 9/11 and directed New Yorkers to return to contaminated residences, workplaces and firehouses.

Kupferman is fed up. He is considering returning to the courts to once again force the City to follow its own laws and stop the spraying.

Toxicologist Dr. Robert Simon, who took soil samples from around the city following the spraying amd whose testimony was extremely damning to the city’s spray program, agrees: “The only solution is another lawsuit against NYC Department of Health. They do not care what we think and will not respond unless a judge tells them to. The current spraying is the same pattern of disrepect for the law that they have shown since they started spraying.”

The No Spray Coalition adds that this year may be especially brutal, as people fight to protect their lungs and respiratory systems from the Covid-19 virus only to come under attack by the City’s poisonous spraying.

At the same time, reads the Coalition’s press release, “There is no evidence presented that the City’s pesticide spraying has prevented West Nile disease (encephalitis). The risk of contracting West Nile Virus is very low to begin with, certainly not worth putting the entire population at significant risk and harming human health, wildlife, animals, beneficial insects, and our environment.

“In fact,” the Coalition continues, “there is no evidence that the number of mosquitoes, let alone those that carry West Nile virus, has EVER been diminished by pesticides spraying!” That may seem counterintuitive, but in fact studies show that mosquitoes come back after spraying in larger numbers than before, and many are now resistant to the pesticides. Meanwhile, the pesticides not only cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine system , but greatly reduced sperm counts — all follow in the wake of the pesticides.

Howard Brandstein, the director of the Sixth Street Community Center on the Lower East Side, and a plaintiff in the No Spray Coalition lawsuit, noted that “we are faced with an insect apocalypse in NYC and all around the globe, with dire consequences for all life on earth. The shortsighted and foolish use of insecticides to supposedly solve one alleged issue is killing beneficial insects en masse and weakening their ability to pollinate food crops and flowering plants.”


As part of the the 2007 decision in the No Spray Coalition’s lawsuit against the City’s spraying, the City admitted (signed and in writing) that the pesticides:

– may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose

– cause adverse health effects

– kill mosquitoes’ natural predators (such as dragonflies, bats, frogs and birds)

– increase mosquitoes’ resistance to the sprays, and

– are not approved for direct application to waterways.


Numerous studies have shown the terrible developmental consequences to children who have been exposed to pesticcides. The City’s recklessly disregards scientific studies that run counter to its drumbeat for spraying. These include:

+ A major Centers for Disease Control study that found that all residents of the United States, including residents of New York City and State, now carry dangerously high levels of pesticides and their residues in our bodies, which may have onerous effects on our health. (Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals,Centers for Disease Control, 2005);

+ A U.S. Geological Study showing that a large percentage of waterways and streams throughout the United States, including those in New York City and State, has been found to contain environmentally destructive pesticides that may severely impact on animal and aquatic life. (U.S. Geological Survey: “The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters, Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Ground Water,”1992-2001,http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2005/1291/);

+ Studies confirming that pesticides are both a trigger for asthma attacks and a root cause of asthma (Salam, et al: “Early-life environmental risk factors for asthma findings from the children’s health study.” Environmental Health Perspectives 112(6):760-765), and that asthma is epidemic across New York City;

+ Cicero Swamp Study, showing that pesticides killed off the natural predators of mosquitoes and as a consequence mosquitoes came back much stronger after the spraying, because many of their natural predators (which have longer reproductive cycles) were dead. These studies were done in New York state for mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and found a 15-fold increase in mosquitoes after repeated spraying, and that virtually all of the new generations of mosquitoes were pesticide-resistant. (Journal of the Am Mosquito Control Assoc, Dec; 13(4):315-25, 1997 Howard JJ, Oliver New York State Department of Health, SUNY-College ESF, Syracuse 13210, USA);

+ Studies that show that pesticides have cumulative, multigenerational, degenerative impacts on human health, especially on the development of children, which may not be evident immediately and may only appear years or even decades later*;

+ Studies that show that pesticides make it easier for mosquitoes and other organisms to get and transmit West Nile Virus due to damage to their stomach lining. (Haas, George. “West Nile virus, spraying pesticides the wrong response,” American Bird Conservancy, October 23, 2000); and,

+ Studies that show that pyrethroid spraying is ineffective in reducing the number of the next generation of mosquitoes. (“Efficacy of Resmethrin Aerosols Applied from the Road for Suppressing Culex Vectors of West Nile Virus,” Michael R. Reddy, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, et. al., Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, Volume 6, Number 2, June 2006)


No Spray Coalition in Nashville, Tennessee released a report analyzing data contrasting cities that spray, such as Dallas, Nashville, and Baltimore, and cities that don’t spray, including Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati and Fort Worth, Texas. The No Spray Nashville group analyzed data based on statistics provided by the health departments at 14 major cities, determining that “results show no significant difference in West Nile virus rates between communities that spray and those that don’t.” [ http://nospray.org/2017/08/12/spray-vs-no-spray-14-cities-comparative-analysis-pesticide-spraying-west-nile-virus/ ]

“When we find West Nile present in mosquito pools here in Washington, D.C.,” said Peggy Keller, then Chief of the Bureau of Community Hygiene and Animal Disease Prevention in the D.C. Department of Health, “we don’t spray.We’ve learned that the best way to protect the public from both the virus and the pesticides is to intensify our larval program and distribute outreach and education information that emphasizes prevention and protection techniques to the public in the surrounding area.”

After carefully reviewing the potential effectiveness of spraying as well as the risks of the virus with the risks of pesticide exposure, the City of Lyndhurst, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland), was one of the first to pass an ordinance prohibiting the spraying of pesticides to control the spread of WNV.

Other areas also use bio-predators of mosquitoes — dragonflies and bats — to control mosquito infestations, with very successful results.


Mitchel Cohen is Coordinator of the No Spray Coalition in New York City. He can be reached at: mitchelcohen@mindspring.com.