Bugging Out

Pesticide Fighters Bite Back Over Mosquito Spraying

Such data may become increasingly useful. Pesticides aren't just a farm issue; in fact, thanks to roaches and backyard gardening, they're a major urban threat. Even without malathion, says Laura Haight, a pesticide expert for NYPIRG, Brooklyn and Manhattan have the highest pesticide use in New York State. "I really believe that pesticide poisoning will be the new lead," she says. "People don't know they are getting it in their food, kids in schools. Nobody knows what the effects will be."

"The issue is huge," says Peggy Shepard, executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action. "We have a large AIDS population which has immuno issues, and that makes a population very vulnerable to other kinds of toxins." And "asthma is an epidemic and certainly pesticides are an important trigger." Her group has developed a fact sheet on pesticides, especially as they relate to children's health. Ironically, the populations most at risk to pesticides—the young, the elderly, and the ill—are also most vulnerable to viruses like West Nile.

"I'm glad Reverend Sharpton is holding a forum on this issue, it's overdue," Shepard says. "Often people like to say that people of color aren't interested in environmental issues, but that's not true. I think we need more leadership like that."  

Research assistance: Rui Bing Zheng

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