Florida Department of Health Incorrectly Says Naled Is Not Banned in Europe

Damn you, Aedes aegypti.
Damn you, Aedes aegypti.
Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of Agriculture

If Miami is going to stop the spread of Zika, residents have to trust that the government knows what it's doing. That's why it's all the more concerning that the Florida Department of Health last week published an outright lie in a Q&A about the virus and the pesticides being used to combat it.

As residents protested last week's decision by Miami-Dade County to spray naled, a controversial pesticide, over Miami Beach, the DOH last Thursday published a fact sheet titled "Frequently Asked Questions on Aerial Spraying of Naled."

Despite ample documentary evidence to the contrary, the DOH then claimed the pesticide is not banned in the European Union.

On page 2, the FAQ asks, "I heard naled is banned in Europe. Is that true?" It responds:

No that is not true. Since aerial application of adulticides for mosquito control in Europe is used very rarely, AMVAC, the company that sells naled, simply chose not to support the product under the EU Reregistration program. Since the product has not gone through the registration process to be approved for use, it cannot be used in Europe.

But that claim is demonstrably false. On May 11, 2012, the European Union announced it had evaluated naled and chose not to include it on its list of permitted pesticides.

Official EU documentation states:

Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1451/2007, naled (CAS Nr 300-76-5; EC Nr 206-098-3) has been evaluated in accordance with Article 11(2) of Directive 98/8/EC for use in product type 18, insecticides, acaricides and products to control other arthropods, as defined in Annex V to that Directive.

It then goes on to say, in no uncertain terms, that an assessment conducted by French officials showed that naled posed an "unacceptable risk" to health and the environment. It added that tests did not show naled was effective enough to overcome the risks it posed.

The assessment has demonstrated that biocidal products used as insecticides, acaricides and products to control other arthropods and containing naled cannot be expected to satisfy the requirements laid down in Article 5 of Directive 98/8/EC. The scenarios evaluated in the human health risk assessment as well as in the environmental risk assessment showed a potential and unacceptable risk. Furthermore, the evaluation has not demonstrated sufficient efficacy. It is therefore not appropriate to include naled for use in product type 18 in Annex I, IA or IB to Directive 98/8/EC.

The decree then stated naled was to be removed from all European markets November 1, 2012, repeating again that the pesticide posed an unacceptable risk to the Earth.

In addition to the fact that the EU's ban documentation exists and is easily found through a Google search, the website AgroNews even reported on the EU ban when it happened in 2012. 

Likewise, the United Kingdom's Health and Safety Executive, a government public health department, lists the date the EU banned naled on its website, as well as a reminder that the product was removed from markets in November 2012.

In July, before Zika even hit Miami, the New York Times stated flatly that naled is banned in Europe.

So why does the DOH claim naled is legal in Europe?

New Times sent the DOH each of the above links and asked for an explanation to its answer to that question. The department did not immediately answer a phone call and an email request for comment.

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Beyond the simple concern for accuracy, the naled Q&A comes at a time when public trust in the DOH is not high. This past Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that the department was underreporting the number of Zika cases in Miami by excluding Americans who'd caught the virus in Miami but had traveled home to different states. Gov. Rick Scott has been accused repeatedly of trying to downplay Zika's risks and the threat it poses to Miami's tourism economy.

It appears the department's "everything is fine" mentality has extended to pesticides as well. Though both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say naled can be sprayed safely from planes, scores of residents have asked for more of a say in what chemicals are sprayed over their homes.

The CDC has said multiple times that the risks Zika poses outweigh naled's potential problems. The CDC also claims that Puerto Rico's decision to eschew naled use has led to an uptick in Zika cases on the island. And, additionally, Miami-Dade County claims its aerial naled spraying is working to eradicate Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads the virus. The county essentially says its hands were tied when confronted with Zika.

But those very points don't change the fact that residents — especially those in Wynwood — were not adequately warned when the county began spraying naled over wide swaths of the neighborhood earlier this summer.

"County officials haven’t been giving complete warnings to people," Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior National Resources Defense Council scientist, told New Times August 10. "I've seen some literature that said 'no extra precautions are needed' if they're spraying. But we want people to take extra precautions to avoid coming in contact with residue."

In warm water, the organophosphate naled has a half-life of 48 to 96 hours, according to various estimates. Though studies show the pesticide does not remain in the environment long after it is sprayed, chronic naled exposure has been linked to multiple neurological conditions. Most studies say large quantities of the chemical are toxic to birds and fish.

Since the furor over naled has erupted, the county has appeared to expand its outreach efforts by posting more signs outdoors and using social media to blast out news about spraying. But it appears the state has instead chosen to pretend that everything is still hunky-dory.

At a time when some people don't believe Zika is even a threat to children, that mindset will only lead to more residents losing trust in state agencies.


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