SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utahns want to get rid of pesky mosquitoes, but is it being done in the safest way possible? 

Physicians from the Board of Directors of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, UPHE, are speaking out sharing their concerns on how Salt Lake City plans to get rid of mosquitos this year. 

UPHE says they feel the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, SLCMAD, strategy for mosquito control is badly outdated, scientifically flawed, and represents a chronic and recurring hazard to the health of residents in the Salt Lake Valley. 

“We are calling on them to stop pesticide spraying for mosquitoes,” as stated in a press release sent to ABC4 from UPHE. 

According to claims from UPHE, the SLCMAD mosquito abatement program is over 100 years old. 

Ary Faraji, Ph.D., MS, BCE, Executive Director and Entomologist for Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District tells ABC4 the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, provides mosquito surveillance and control measures for the residents of Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. 

“Our primary mission is to ensure the public health safety of all of our constituents from mosquito-borne disease and to enhance their quality of life by ensuring that nuisance mosquito populations are kept at tolerable levels,” Faraji shares. “We value every single individual within our jurisdiction and do our best to ensure that mosquitoes and the pathogens that they harbor have limited human and veterinary impact.” 

UPHE shares in a press release, “the mere continued presence of mosquitoes in their natural habitat in the Northwest Quadrant does not justify pesticide spraying.” 

SLCMAD was proposing to invoke the US Air Force in launching aerial spraying to help get rid of the mosquitoes. According to Faraji, ”the United States Air Force has a Spray Unit with Entomologists that respond to epidemics and natural disasters on a national and global scale.” 

UPHE says the proposal was withdrawn after widespread public opposition and claim the district “has conducted a massive aerial spraying of pesticides using private planes, every year for decades over much of the Northwest Quadrant and intends to continue that, despite the fact that by their own admission it is no longer effective,” as stated in the press release. 

“Aerial spraying of toxic pesticides in a vain attempt to control mosquitoes is not protecting public health. The practice is an institutionalized relic of the 1950s just like atmospheric nuclear bomb testing. In fact, there is significant overlap between the disease potential of pesticides and radiation. The public should look at this as yet another way that Utah families are becoming downwinder victims of poor public policy,” Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE Founder and President, and the participating physicians explain. 

Health officials say they are especially worried about the possible effects the pesticides could have on infants, children, and pregnant mothers on the West side, North Salt Lake, and West Bountiful. They say exposure to the pesticides are proven hazardous to public health, and to young brain development.

Faraji says aerial applications are not conducted over urban or suburban habitats of Salt Lake City, only in rural habitats concentrating over wetland areas north and west of Salt Lake International Airport and will only ever be conducted at night. 

Chemical control is often the last resort within the district’s operations, but a very necessary component for mosquito management and that all products used are labeled specifically for mosquito control provided through the Environmental Protection Agency and regulated through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Federal pesticide labels are deemed law. Faraji tells ABC4 they abide explicitly by their requirements.

“We feel very confident about our operations and the methods that we are using,” Faraji shares.

UPHE says they feel the scientific and empirical evidence is overwhelming that spraying adulticides to kill mosquitoes, especially aerial spraying, is ineffective, and can be even counterproductive, over the long term, and even the short term, to both goals of controlling mosquito populations and preventing West Nile Virus.

“Furthermore, the medical literature strongly indicates that routine aerial spraying over Salt Lake City’s airshed represents a broad-based danger to public health. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) implore SLCMAD to end all of their insecticide spraying for mosquitoes, whether from backpacks, trucks, or airplanes. This practice should be stopped immediately,” the press release later stated. 

Faraji tells ABC4 SLCMAD has historically utilized the latest science and information available to make informed decisions about mosquito surveillance and control measures utilizing an integrated approach for the protection of public health and enhancement of quality of life. “All of these measures are within full compliance of regulatory laws and fully supported by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”