Judd Allison, owner of 305 Films and Wynwood event space Toejam Backlot, was already upset about Gov. Rick Scott's handling of Miami's Zika outbreak. And then he read about Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control spraying naled, a controversial pesticide linked to disorders in fetuses.
During a meeting between Wynwood business leaders and Mosquito Control experts yesterday, Allison says, he asked why the county would choose to spray naled — and the county told him, again, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims the pesticide is safe.
"That's such a crock of shit," he says. "It's banned in the European Union."
His solution: At this weekend's Wynwood Art Walk, held the second Saturday of every month, he'll gather a group of fellow artists and business owners to march against the county's chosen list of pesticides.
County experts say they have few fast-acting options when it comes to Zika virus control. Residents and business owners have demanded an immediate solution to America's first locally transmitted outbreak. The slow method of methodically weeding out mosquito larva nests one-by-one wasn't an option.
But the county's solution has been to flood Wynwood with the highly controversial pesticide. Multiple environmental scientists told New Times this week that the pesticide could have lasting effects on public health, despite the CDC and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rulings that naled can be safely sprayed in small doses.
Naled is part of a controversial and dangerous family of pesticides called "organophosphates," which a 2010 Emory University study linked to developmental and neurological problems in fetuses and infants. Naled is banned in the European Union because regulators there claim it poses an "unacceptable risk" to humans. Naled also caused a wave of protests last month in Puerto Rico, whose government ended up preventing the CDC from using the chemical.
(The county is spraying not only naled but also a safer, larva-killing bacteria called "Bti" from planes.)
Miami-Dade County, which says it has safely sprayed naled according to state and federal guidelines for four decades, plans to spray the chemical again over Wynwood
National and local media outlets' eyes are likely to be on this Saturday's Art Walk. Politicians and business owners have been working to persuade patrons to return to Wynwood, and the CDC lifted part of its travel warning for the neighborhood today. The question is whether anything approaching the usual number of attendees will show up for the event.
Allison says whatever the turnout is like, he'll be rallying a crowd to protest naled.
"We're going to get a group of people together to meet up here at Toejam," Allison says of his event space located at 150 NW 21st St. "It will be a simple protest. We're just going to walk to raise awareness, because we just need to shed light and at least talk about this."
Allison says he also wasn't happy with the way yesterday's meeting between local business owners and Mosquito Control experts was handled.
"I showed up specifically to talk about this," he says. "They listened to me for one second and then changed the subject."
To Allison, the county jumped the gun when it came to mosquito control and spraying in order to seem like it had a handle on the virus. He says Scott and the county government tried to act as quickly as possible simply to look like they were "doing something." (He also says Scott ought to "be slapped" and is considering filing a class-action lawsuit against the governor.)
In the rush to "protect" Wynwood, Allison says, the county has actually hurt the neighborhood. For one, he believes the Zika "active transmission zone" was drawn too large.
"And here they are poisoning birds with this pesticide," he says. "If you get Zika, you're going to get flulike symptoms for a few days, and then you'll have antibodies to fight it. Is that worth taking down our entire infrastructure?"
Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Washignton, D.C.-based National Resources Defense Council, asks that on spraying days, residents take children's toys inside, close windows, and turn off their air conditioners during spraying and then, afterward, wipe down any outdoor items that might have come into contact with the pesticide.