(Newswire.net — October 22, 2017) — In effort to get rid of mosquitoes that emerge in Texas areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, the US Air Force sprayed a controversial insecticide, Quartz reports.
The organophosphate (OP) insecticide called Naled was sprayed from a military transporter airplane Hercules C-130 over more than 6 million acres. The action was conducted after rising concerns that polluted standing water boosted the populations of pest insects that can transmit dangerous, even deadly diseases.
“This poses a health risk to rescue workers and residents of Houston,” Captain Jeff Kelly, Air Force spokesman said in a statement, quoted by Reuters.
In order to suppress the mosquito infestation the US Air Force sprayed Naled, a neurotoxin sold under the brand name Dibrom that causes respiratory paralysis and death.
This insecticide that is in use across the US since 1950 was forbidden in the EU in 2012 over concerns that it might affect human health. “The scenarios evaluated in the human health risk assessment as well as in the environmental risk assessment showed a potential and unacceptable risk,” the EU wrote about its decision.
The UN recognized Naled as highly toxic for humans and classifies the insecticide as a 6.1 inhalation hazard, on a scale from one to eight. That means that the substance is toxic at any quantity.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Environmental Protection Agency say that the insecticide isn’t harmful to humans in small doses. The US Air Force agrees.
“The system disperses droplets small enough to land on a mosquito’s wing, using less than one ounce of naled per acre. That’s less than one shot glass for an area the size of a football field,” an Air Force spokesperson said.
Though the US government considers Naled safe, experts warn that the substance may affect the placenta if it is in the bloodstream of a mammal, affecting unborn babies in a way similar to the Zika virus. Repeated exposures may also cause future behavioral problems, as well as issues with neurodevelopment, growth, and respiratory health in offspring.
In 2016, a study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that when pregnant mothers live within one kilometer of fields where certain pesticides are used, their children are more likely to have lower IQs.