Updated: Feb 3, 2022
Every summer, mosquito season rolls around in Massachusetts - and every summer, the state sprays toxic pesticides from the air and from the roads in an attempt to decrease the risk of mosquito-borne disease, poisoning other organisms and endangering public health along the way.
The nature of Massachusetts' ecology makes it extremely hard to spray pesticides without contaminating waterways, even though pesticide applicators say they "avoid wetlands." This practice endangers aquatic wildlife and can bioaccumulate up the food chain. In addition, application of the pesticide the state has historically used for aerial spraying, Anvil 10+10, was recently found to contain PFAS, a class of "forever chemicals" that don't easily break down in nature and pose serious health risks to humans. The source of that contamination has since been identified and eliminated, but it's a reminder that there is no system in place to ensure PFAS is not in other mosquito control pesticides
All this spraying is a relic of a 1918 law, and occurs year after year without scientific evidence that this approach actually decreases the risk of mosquito-borne disease.
The good news: there are alternative mosquito control methods that avoid pesticide spraying that are safer for plants, animals, pollinators, people, and our water supply.
The Mosquito Control for the Twenty-First Century Task Force (including Mass Rivers Executive Director Julia Blatt, who is a member) was tasked by the legislature to study the state's current approach and recommend a new and improved management structure by March 2022. Now, the Task Force is ready to present draft recommendations on various aspects of mosquito management.
On February 10, 2022 from 4 - 6 PM the Task Force will hold a public listening session to receive comments on these draft recommendations.
That's where you come in! Join us in advocating for more responsible, less toxic mosquito management for our state. Public participation is crucial to developing a new system that protects public health while maintaining healthy ecosystems.
The draft recommendations are posted online, and will be updated as new documents emerge. As of February 2, the Task Force has posted:
There's several ways to get involved:
1) Sign up to speak at the listening session >> Speaking time is limited to 3 minutes per person. Robust public participation at the listening session is critical to the Task Force's decision making process. They need to hear directly from concerned members of the public!
2) Submit written comments to the Task Force >> Written comments about the draft recommendations will be accepted through 5pm on February 14, 2022.
3) Sign up to watch the listening session >> Strong public attendance demonstrates to the Task Force that people are keeping tabs on mosquito control reform.
The state's mosquito-borne disease management system should limit the use of pesticides, if they are used at all, to true public health emergencies (defined using quantifiable thresholds). Pesticides should never be used for "nuisance" mosquito control. The state should also:
prioritize ecologically-based methods.
Increase funding and capacity for mosquito monitoring, surveillance, and public education efforts.
Provide full transparency and accountability within any mosquito-borne disease management program, honoring local opt-out agreements under the current system.
Allow for community choice so each municipality can opt-in to only the services they need. Communities should be able to control how they deal with risks of mosquito-borne disease. (Learn more about the current opt-out process >>)
Pesticides are contributing to declining pollinator populations. Across the country, 28% of bumble bees and 17% of butterflies are at risk of extinction. In Massachusetts, there are 78 endangered or rare insect species listed.
Massachusetts sprays pyrethroid insecticides which are toxic to pollinators and other beneficial wildlife, and are ineffective at killing disease-bearing mosquitoes. Pyrethroids also pose serious health risks to humans, and especially to children.
Ecological methods to mosquito control have co-benefits, like better managing flood waters, reducing stormwater pollution, and reducing heat islands in urban areas.
There is insufficient data on the cost effectiveness of our pesticide usage. In 2019, the state spent over $5 million dollars on aerial spraying alone.
ICYMI - On January 26, 2022, Senator Adam Hinds, Representative Dr. Tami Gouviea and the MASSquito Coalition hosted a legislative briefing about the need for ecologically sound mosquito disease management program for our Commonwealth. Watch the video >>