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Mosquito spraying in Nassau canceled

BY JENNIFER BARRIOS | jennifer.barrios@newsday.com

Information on the insecticide used for spraying mosquitoes: FACT SHEET

September 5, 2008
A planned aerial pesticide spraying over a large portion of Nassau County that had angered several environmental and breast cancer groups was canceled last night because of high winds, Nassau officials said.

No new date for the spraying was announced.

Opponents of the plan - aimed at controlling the spread of the West Nile virus - have called it an ineffectual and dangerous response to controlling the spread of the West Nile virus.

"There's a concern about adding yet another poison to a burden of chemicals that we already have in this county," said Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a Port Washington nonprofit group.

The aerial spraying of the pesticide Scourge was to be conducted over about a third of Nassau County between the Long Island Expressway and the Southern State to the north and south, and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway and the Queens County border to the east and west. Nassau officials hope it will kill adult mosquitoes in an effort to stanch the spread of West Nile virus, a potentially deadly disease that is nonetheless relatively uncommon to contract.

Laura Weinberg, president of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, said she was concerned at a possible link between pesticide spraying and breast cancer. "There should be an environmental or health impact statement to find out if the population is going to be harmed," she said.

The planned spray marked the second time the county has used aerial spraying to tackle the disease in humans since the virus first was discovered in Nassau in 1999.

So far this season, county health department officials say there has been one confirmed death from West Nile virus, one death likely caused by the illness, and one fatality under suspicion, all in Nassau. Ten people have been infected by the virus in the county this year, as opposed to two cases last year.

Claire Lieber-Saul, a Jericho attorney worried by the spraying, looked into obtaining an emergency court order against the county to try to halt the spraying, but there was insufficient time, she said, adding she planned to prepare paperwork in case the county announced another round of spraying.

Cynthia Brown, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Department of Health, said the county's decision to use aerial spraying was the result of an alarming increase in the number of infected mosquitoes found. Brown said those numbers may be due to heavy rains the region has experienced lately, leading to pools of stagnant water perfect for mosquito breeding.