“At the height of Covid-19 impacts in the Northeast U.S., Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito (R) filed emergency legislation at the Boston State House that would, according to their April 16 press release, “help the Commonwealth more effectively combat diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including arboviruses like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV), by authorizing a coordinated, proactive, statewide approach to mosquito control activities.” Protecting the public from such diseases is an important public health mission. However, the Governor’s bill, H.4650, represents an alarming “over-reach” that would give unitary authority to the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to conduct mosquito control activities, including ineffective and toxic spraying, with virtually no effective oversight or transparency. Beyond Pesticides opposes this bill, whose passage would enable use of pesticides that can have respiratory and immune impacts — increasing health risks for everyone, but especially for the many people already at higher risk from Covid-19, despite the availability of ecological management approaches that eliminate the need for toxic chemicals.
Kyla Bennett, the New England Director, and Director of Science Policy, for PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), outlined a host of reasons for opposing H.4650. Echoing many of the concerns of Beyond Pesticides, Mass Audubon, and Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) (see next paragraph), the list includes:
- the bill is far too broad and represents significant over-reach
- the bill has no sunset provision
- it would pre-empt municipal decision making (e.g., not to join a regional district to avoid nuisance spraying), as well as overrule private property requests for spraying exemptions
- it does not account for environmental impacts of widespread adulticiding (or other strategies)
- it fails to address public health implications of broad-scale spraying, especially on vulnerable populations
- DPH has not undertaken any analysis of how and why EEE has achieved such geographic spread in the state”