Apr 16, 2008 12:09 am US/Pacific
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CBS 5 Investigates: Is Apple Moth Really A
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CBS 5 Investigates: Is Apple Moth Really A Risk?
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) ―
The government claims it's an emergency. They say they have to conduct
aerial spraying over the Bay Area immediately to eradicate the light brown apple
moth. But a CBS 5 Investigation has found there may not be an emergency at
Starting August 1st, the government plans to spray us from the air
with a pesticide designed to stop the moths from mating. It is a reality that's
just beginning to dawn on residents in the Bay Area.
there's no time for public input. But some are saying slow down, the rush to
eradicate could harm more than help.
"I was having a really bad time
breathing, really bad wheezing," said 9-year old Nora Alongi-Aron. She went to
the emergency room for the first time ever, last fall.
"This was a very
serious asthma attack that I have never seen in this child before," her mother,
Dr. Krista Alongi-Aron said.
Alongi-Aron's trip to the emergency room
happened after the state sprayed pesticides over Santa Cruz and Monterey
counties. And she is not alone.
Monterey County resident Mike Lynberg,
who collected other reports of health problems said, "It felt a little bit like
an experiment on our health, and frankly it was unwelcomed."
since that was just the beginning. The state now plans to spray most of the Bay
Area, urban neighborhoods included, not just once, but as often as 3 times a
month, for 9 months out of the year, for five years or more.
reason behind the spraying? The light brown apple moth, native to Australia is
now here. And the worry? The state says the tiny moth could cause millions of
dollars in crop damage.
But is it safe to spray these chemicals over
nearly 7 million people in the Bay Area?
"It's been shown to be,
incredibly safe," State Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura told CBS 5
Investigates. He said because the moth is so widespread, it must be attacked
with a pheromone product, from the air.
"We just don't have the
logistical ability to cover 700 plus square miles with a ground crew," Kawamura
He said the emergency is so great; the state can't even afford to
wait for an environmental impact report.
"If we were to wait a year, even
6, 7, 8 months, we might lose that window," Kawamura said. "We stand an
excellent chance to eradicate it if we act on it quickly."
Carey, an entomology professor at UC Davis, disagrees. He is an expert on
"invasion biology," how insects get into an area and spread.
work," Carey said. "Historically, there is no precedent for this at all. None.
The data argue absolutely for the impossibility of this
Why? Because he said it is a huge infestation.
matter how much they spray this pheromone, it's simply not going to eradicate
this population, it's simply too widespread." Carey said.
disagree," Kawamura said. "We as a group, those of us who believe, we just
disagree with him."
And one of Secretary Kawamura's reasons for
disagreeing with Professor Carey?
"He's not an entomologist," Kawamura
"Well I don't know where he got this one," Carey responded. "Are
you serious? I'm not an entomologist? I've never heard that."
more, Professor Carey said this is not even an emergency, because he believes
the moths have been in California for a long time, at least 30 years, maybe even
50, with no crop damage, by the state's own admission.
Kawamura said the potential for damage outweighs what he calls the negligible
health risks of spraying over cities.
"Looking at the science we're told
by the agencies that nothing should happen," he said.
When CBS 5
Investigates asked Kawamura "But you can't say it won't happen?" he responded,
"Well, you can't."
That concerns Caroline Cox, a pesticide expert with
the Center for Environmental Health.
"When I saw what kind of test
information was available for the chemicals in that product, almost no testing
where the testing was done by breathing it in," she said. Cox pointed out there
has been no long term testing for health impacts from breathing the
"Since that's the main way that we will be exposed to it when the
spraying occurs, that is a huge, huge lack of information," Cox said.
so said Secretary Kawamura, who relies on the EPA's registration
"We can only use registered products in our eradication," he
told CBS 5 Investigates.
Yet a quick read of the label for the product
used in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties shows it is not registered for general
use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead it received an
emergency exemption which bypasses all normal federal and California EPA
In fact, when one reads the label more closely, it shows the
spray can't even be used in any state other than California.
work," Professor Carey said about the whole program. "And so you'll end up
having conducted this program for several years subjecting people to this spray,
yet not achieving eradication which was the whole point and you're still left
with the light brown apple moth in California."
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