Activists claim that hundreds of people became sick after officials sprayed a type of pesticide along parts of California’s Central Coast.
In a pair of studies released last week, a group calling itself California Alliance to Stop the Spray says that 643 residents of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties became ill last fall after state agriculture officials sprayed the area with a synthetic pheromone known as CheckMate LBAM-F.
Symptoms listed include eye and throat irritation, shortness of breath, skin rashes, asthma attacks and interruptions in menstrual cycles, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
“The spray affected people in different ways,” said the reports’ compiler, Pacific Grove resident Mike Lynberg, according to the Sentinel. “But they all had one thing in common. It was like nothing they had ever experienced before and it happened after the spraying.”
State agricultural officials deny that the chemical is responsible for the health complaints, and say the spray is necessary to eradicate the light brown apple moth, a pest that could potentially cause millions of dollars in damage to local crops.
The moth has been found in different areas of California, but the largest number trapped has been in Santa Cruz County.
The Sentinel quoted an official as saying: “The chemicals have, in fact, been reviewed. And they found the pheromone doesn’t kill anything. It doesn’t even kill the moth, it only confuses its mating.”
The controversy over the spraying has been much talked about around Monterey Bay, with newspapers in Santa Cruz and Monterey naming it one of the top stories of 2007.
“Group alleges hundreds got sick after moth spraying”
Santa Cruz Sentinel, January 5, 2008
“2007 Newsmaker of the Year: Moth had county atwitter”
Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 30, 2007
Despite assurances by the CDFA that the spraying would be safe, many
community leaders remain concerned after learning of the larger scale of documented
“While California’s agriculture business is vitally important, no one, including the
Governor, I think, wants to sacrifice the health of children and other vulnerable
citizens for produce. That’s why the spraying needs to stop so we can have a
thorough public process including an Environmental Impact Report.”
– Tony Madrigal, Santa Cruz City Council
“The science establishing the safety of the spraying simply is not there. In effect,
this has been an experiment on a grand scale. The Nuremberg Code, which is
adhered to by the National Institutes of Health, prohibits medical experimentation
on human subjects without their informed consent. I believe the same code of
ethics should be adhered to in this situation.”
– Dr. Doug Hulstedt, pediatrician, Monterey
“The number of people who have reported adverse reactions is alarming, and I
believe further spraying must be halted until we can be certain it is safe.”
– Emily Reilly, Santa Cruz City Council member
“Protecting those who are most vulnerable is a hallmark of our society, and while
the aerial spraying might not adversely impact everyone, there is reason to believe
it is harming some people, including those with chemical sensitivities, impaired
immune systems, and asthma and other respiratory ailments. The rights of these
citizens need to be protected.”
– Jeff Haferman, Monterey City Council member.