Mosquito spray debate in Braham

Braham resident Bob Fisk brought an extensively documented argument to the July 9 Braham City Council regarding his concerns about the mosquito spray applied twice a week in summer months.

Citing health risks to his family and neighbors, Fisk engaged in a lengthy dialogue with the council which ended with the same recent practice unchanged: the applicator will lift the spray when it comes to the Fisk residence, but the city will continue to spray the rest of town.

Central to Fisk’s argument for private property protection is that Braham–like many municipalities in Minnesota–uses Permanone-RTU® as its insecticide. Permanone’s two listed active ingredients are Permethrin and Piperonyxl Butoxide which are possible carcinogens. When applied too densely in watersheds, there has been documented damage to fish and other aquatic organisims, along with being highly toxic to bees.

“This is a property issue. Whether you lift the sprayer near our property or not, the spray will get all over our garden and on the yard where my children play,” said Fisk. “We have our windows open at night, and sometimes we’re asleep by the time the sprayers are working, so we’re exposed. I am extremely concerned about the long-term effects my children may suffer due to prolonged exposure to these chemicals.”

He added, “I also think there is a limited effect on the mosqito population in Braham with the spraying.”

Weighing the balance

Braham Mayor Patricia Carlson responded that if sprayed properly, Permanone is less risky for health concerns. The council offered an excerpt from the 1993 Report from the Legislative Auditor which read:

“The Minnesota Department of Health assessed the risk of permethrin and resmethrin to humans and concluded that ‘exposure…through ingestion or skin contact does not pose a health risk to humans…Brief inhalation of the insecticides should not pose a health risk.’…Because permethrin and resmethrin are broad spectrum insecticides, they must be applied judiciously and in strict conformity with EPA label requirements.”

Carlson and Council members Traci Leaf and Lowell Jaques also countered that mosquito spraying is vital to lowering residents’ risks to the West Nile virus, lyme disease from ticks and equine encephalitis.

Braham’s typical spraying schedule is Tuesday and Friday nights, weather permitting. Carlson said residents need to be aware of the sprayers’ schedule and should keep windows closed for a short while after the sprayer passes to limit the exposure inside the home.

Leaf and Jaques also argued that they have seen much proof that spraying makes an impact on mosquito population. Jaques, a Braham resident for his 70 years, added that mosquitoes were much worse in town during the years when no spray was applied.

Fisk queried if the council ever looked into alternatives to mosquito control and if a “Don’t Spray” list can be created for individual residences who would rather the mosquito sprayer lift past their homes, too.

Next council meeting: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m.