Study finds chemical used to fight Zika across Tampa Bay area could harm children

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – There are new concerns over a chemical used to kill mosquitoes that carry Zika. A University of Michigan study found Naled can stunt the development of motor skills in babies. It’s a chemical that’s commonly sprayed in the Tampa Bay area.

It’s dangerous, yet ironic. Mosquito control is fighting Zika to protect pregnant mothers, and yet their efforts could harm children. The study raises a lot of questions.

When Jennie Donohue became a mom, she completely changed the way she looked at pesticides.

“When I had Ethan I thought, ‘what am I really putting on my skin? Do I want to put it on his skin?'” said Donohue.

She tries to avoid contact with harmful chemicals, and for good reason. The scientists learned babies in China who were exposed to Naled suffered delays in learning fine motor skills.

“Its scary stuff. I think it’s very, very real,” said Donohue.

8 On Your Side learned Naled is used in Sarasota County and in most mosquito control departments across the state. It’s an affordable and effective agent to kill the pests.

“All things that we spray to kill mosquitoes are toxic, they kill things, that’s their job,” said Matt Smith with Sarasota County Mosquito Management.

Smith emphasizes the exposure is minimal. Naled is dispersed from airplanes, using only half an ounce per acre. It’s strictly regulated by the EPA.

“It’s just like taking a medicine. I like to use that analogy, because no medication comes without some risk of side effects,” Smith explained.

“It does of course give you cause for concern and it just reinforces our ongoing mission to reduce the use of products like this as much as possible,” said Smith.

“[We] rotate [Naled] with some what we would consider less toxic compounds. But, those tend to be a lot more expensive,” Smith explained.

Donohue is doing her part. She makes her own mosquito spray with essential oils to use on her son. She feels state officials should be more cautious.

“I feel like we want to make sure the generations we’re raising are going to be quality people and so I think it would be worth their time to take the time to invest and research what they’re spraying. Even if it’s a temporary fix for the bugs, its not necessarily a great fix overtime,” she said.

“Absolutely I want changes to be made, I want them to really do thorough research before they start using something with long term effects. I want them to not necessarily go with the cheaper option,” said Donohue.

Mosquito control experts say this is a good example as to why it’s important to drain standing water and do everything you can to keep mosquitoes from hatching. If we help reduce that pesky bug population, there someday may not be a need for dangerous pesticides.

“I would really like a time when we’re not using any pesticides, that’s my ultimate goal,” said Smith.

If you still have concerns about exposure to these chemicals, contact your local mosquito control department. They can tell you when and where they will be spraying.

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