County Planes Will Spray Anti-Zika Naled Over Miami Beach Despite Previous CDC Warnings

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Last month, an environmental supervisor at Palm Beach County Mosquito Control told New Times  that Miami-Dade County's 5 a.m. spraying missions for Zika mosquitoes were simply "psychological," wouldn't actually kill Aedes aegypti bugs, and might have just been for show.

And when the Zika virus hit Miami Beach, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said aerial spraying wouldn't work at all there because the draft coming off the ocean was too strong and South Beach's condo towers were too tall. The controversial pesticide the county had been spraying — naled, which has been linked to ADHD in infants — has also caused an uproar in South Florida as well as mass insect deaths in South Carolina.

But none of those facts deterred Miami-Dade County from announcing today that it will begin spraying naled aerially over the 1.5-mile "active transmission zone" in Miami Beach this Thursday, September 8.

“Although we had concerns about spraying in Miami Beach due to its unique topography, high-rise buildings, and construction sites, we have received reassurances from the CDC, Governor Rick Scott’s Office, the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture that this is the right and safe thing to do at this time,” County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a release today.

There is confusion surrounding the new spraying schedule: A spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control told New Times she was not aware that CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden had previously said aerial spraying over Miami Beach was not physically possible. The spokesperson, Gayle Love, said Miami-Dade County had received its recommendations from the state, which was working with the CDC. Love said the county's directive had come from Scott's office rather than the CDC itself.

New Times has reached out to the CDC, Scott's office, and a spokesperson for Gimenez to figure out why the CDC's recommendations changed. The Miami Herald reports that, instead of flying directly over South Beach, the planes will waft the chemicals over the ocean in the hope that the sea breeze carries the pesticides onto the barrier island.

A CDC official told CBS News that the decision to spray from planes ultimately lies with Miami Beach and the county.

UPDATE: A spokesperson in Scott's office forwarded New Times a news release, which said that after the CDC recommended aerial spraying of the larvicide Bti in Miami Beach via helicopter, Scott "made resources available" to help Miami-Dade conduct aerial spraying September 1. The county, however, is instead spraying naled via airplane.

But the new spraying schedule comes just after Miami-Dade stopped spraying aerially on weekdays over Wynwood out of concerns that the pesticides would affect schoolchildren on the mainland. Gimenez said today that the county will "keep the number of adulticide missions to a minimum on school days" in Miami Beach to protect kids. The county says it will spray naled four times during this current spray cycle.

The spraying missions will begin at 5 a.m. Thursday morning. Though multiple mosquito control experts say spraying that early will not hit the day-flying Aedes aegypti, experts at the CDC say aerial-spraying techniques have improved in recent years. In the statement, Gimenez stressed that the aerial spraying missions were, in fact, working:

As we have since the beginning, we will continue to follow expert recommendations. Our goal is to reduce the adult mosquito population in Miami Beach. We have been advised to begin adulticide [naled] aerial spraying now, and to continue eliminating mosquito breeding on the ground through ongoing inspections and treatment with larvicide [Bti]. We were able to significantly reduce mosquito counts and break the cycle of Zika transmission for now in the area north of downtown using a similar protocol, and we are confident that our efforts can be equally successful in Miami Beach.

But given the questions swirling around whether aerial spraying will work in Miami Beach, the decision to spray the controversial naled will likely be met with pushback. Though the county claims its spraying regimen in Wynwood helped kill more than 90 percent of the area's mosquitoes, a small uproar has reverberated through town since New Times reported that naled is banned in Europe and might be linked to psychological defects in infants.

South Carolina farmers are also protesting naled in their state. This past Sunday, the Guardian reported that anti-Zika naled spraying in South Carolina had killed 2.5 million bees, leading to a large bee-colony collapse.

"It kills everything," Dennis Olle, director of conservation programs for the North American Butterfly Association, told that paper.

As of today, 56 people have caught the Zika virus in Miami-Dade County. During the spraying missions in Miami Beach, the county is asking that children be kept indoors until around 6:30 a.m.

Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, told New Times in August that residents should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioners, and bring children's toys and pet items inside during spraying missions.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Grieco, who is opposed to aerial spraying, announced via Facebook that the city will hold an informal "workshop" to discuss what the city can do to keep the planes away from the beach. He added he has requested that the commission hold an emergency meeting tomorrow.

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