One of these programs involved the aerial spraying of the pesticide naled over large parts of Miami-Dade County and other parts of Florida. Even before the Zika “outbreak” the state had been spraying naled routinely for years to control mosquitoes. This, despite the fact that naled is officially banned in Europe, and several other countries, including Puerto Rico, refused to use it in the fight against Zika. Hundreds of residents protested against the spraying, but to no avail.
And they were right to be concerned. A recent study by the University of Michigan, published in the journal Environment International, has determined that the use of naled is directly linked to motor function deficits in children.
For their study, researchers took cord blood samples from 237 healthy babies in southeast China between 2008 and 2011, and tested these for the presence of 30 different organophosphate insecticides, including naled. The babies had been exposed to varying amounts of pesticides while in the womb. The researchers then tracked the development of these children over a nine-month period. The study focused on China, since it is the world’s largest user of pesticides, and uses naled extensively.
The researchers discovered that five of these pesticides – one of which was naled – were present in at least 10 percent of the samples.
The babies’ gross, fine and total motor abilities were tested using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales at both 6 weeks and 9 months. While all the babies were fine at 6 weeks, by 9 months, those with the highest prenatal exposure to naled were beginning to exhibit motor skills issues.
Though for the most part the issues were small, the study’s authors warn that these children had been exposed to relatively low levels of naled.
“Just because changes are small, that doesn’t mean they should be discounted,” said Monica Silver, lead author of the study. “We really need to know more about it.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) insists that aerial spraying of naled is not dangerous, because the droplets are very fine, stay airborne for extended periods, and break down quickly once exposed to sunlight and water.
However, Cornell University warns:
“Naled is moderately to highly toxic by ingestion, inhalation and dermal adsorption. … As with all organophosphates, naled is readily absorbed through the skin. Skin which has come in contact with this material should be washed immediately with soap and water and all contaminated clothing should be removed. … High environmental temperatures [like in Florida] or exposure of naled to visible or UV light may enhance its toxicity. [Emphasis added]
Health officials in Brazil have now admitted that the Zika virus is not the likely cause of the microcephaly cases in that country. Worldwide, Zika has once again been acknowledged as the essentially benign virus it always has been. Nonetheless, Miami-Dade County officials have indicated that they will be spraying naled again this year if the virus starts to resurface.
Sources for this article include: