Miami-Dade County Stops Anti-Zika Aerial Pesticide Spraying on Weekdays

Earlier this month, a Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control plane buzzed over New Times' Wynwood office building around 11:15 a.m., wafting the organic, larva-killing bacterial pesticide Bti over the neighborhood. A nearby worker noticed a reporter taking photos and chimed in.

"If you're under the cloud, it gets on your skin," she said, extending her arms in front of her. "You get like a film on you."

That fact, coupled with New Times' report that naled, the other pesticide the county had been spraying aerially, is potentially harmful to growing fetuses and is banned in Europe, has created a stir across the neighborhood since the county began blasting the area August 7 amid a Zika outbreak.

So, apparently out of concern for area schoolchildren, Miami-Dade County announced today it would suspend aerial pesticide spraying on weekdays and spray only on an as-needed basis on weekends from now on.

"We have adjusted our spraying schedule to avoid any inconvenience to our local school system and the children, families, and teachers in our community," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's office said in a statement. "As of this time, no additional adulticide aerial sprayings using naled are planned. We will continue to monitor our mosquito-control surveillance data and will schedule additional sprayings as warranted on weekends." 
The county last sprayed naled August 18 and plans one more wafting of Bti this Saturday, August 27.

Right now, it's unclear whether the county will choose to use naled again. Messages to both the mayor's office and a Mosquito Control spokesperson were not immediately returned. (We'll update the post when we hear back.)

Also, given the fact that a number of schools sit inside Miami's Zika "active transmission" zones, it's unclear what, specifically, prompted the change or if any parents had complained to the county about the aerial spraying.

Though Miami-Dade says it's impossible to spray from planes in South Beach because the area's buildings are too tall and the wind coming off the surf is too strong, the county had been spraying multiple times each week in a ten-square-mile area over Wynwood and much of the mainland city of Miami. Jose de Diego Middle School sits inside Wynwood's active transmission zone.

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say naled can be safely sprayed in small doses to kill mosquitoes, but the EPA bans naled use inside homes and has asked that organizations voluntarily phase out using those pesticides. A 2010 Emory University study suggested that fetal and early-childhood exposure to organophosphates such as naled could be linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The European Union, which polices environmental threats much more closely than the U.S., has banned naled out of fear that it poses an "unacceptable risk" to human and environmental health.

After New Times published its original story about naled, a group of protesters clad in gas masks and hazmat suits marched through August's Wynwood Art Walk and accosted Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado to demand that the county stop using the pesticide.

Update 8/24: Two county spokespeople responded to New Times via email around 5:30 p.m. yesterday. They stressed that the county is not discontinuing naled usage — it just currently has no more aerial spraying missions planned.

"To the extent that it is technically feasible, such missions would be scheduled for the weekend and would be conducted as early in the morning as reasonably possible," Michael Hernandez, a spokesperson for Gimenez, says. "Also, they will be announced in advance, by posting to our mosquito control web page (www.miamidade.gov/mosquito), by posting on our Twitter (https://twitter.com/MiamiDadeSWM) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MiamiDadeSolidWaste/) accounts, and by “reverse 911” automated phone calls to landlines in the affected area."

The county did not say whether parents or school officials had expressed concerns about the spraying missions.