We requested the Health Department's 2008 mosquito trapping records
to find out what they did to address mosquitoes non-toxically before
they sprayed in 2008 and what effect spraying had on mosquitoes. The department has not sprayed Nashville neighborhoods since 2008 because we used the data to support our requests for policy changes.
After seeing the 2008 data, the director of health at the Metro Public Health Department agreed that:
1. Transmission of West Nile virus from mosquitoes to humans is
exceedingly rare in Nashville.
2. The department could do a better
job using the least toxic controls before they sprayed.
He responded by raising the threshold for spraying so that it is
highly unlikely Nashville neighborhoods will be mass sprayed again as a
control for West Nile virus (unless there are significant changes in
We were able to convince him of the need for changes by presenting him
with a report that used the department's own data. It showed:
They spray four and a half times in one neighborhood in Antioch in 2008
and there was no reduction of mosquitoes. In fact, mosquito populations
increased a number of times immediately after spraying.
department took little to no action to identify and treat larval sites
in the area. (Unless larval sites are eliminated or treated, adults
mosquito management will not be successful.)
3. There were diseased mosquitoes found in the area for weeks before any
action was taken and there were no reported human cases.
4. In some cases, the department sprayed after finding less than 10
mosquitoes in their traps.
WHAT THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT'S RECORDS REVEALED & WHAT WE DID
The records revealed that the 2008 Antioch spraying did not reduce
mosquito populations. In at least one case, the mosquito population
increased by 420% one day after they sprayed. The last two times they
sprayed in Antioch, the traps had only 10 or less mosquitoes. (Spraying
for a small number of mosquitoes can contribute to creating resistant
Health officials claim they practice Integrated Pest Management (use
less toxic methods to control mosquitoes first before spraying).
However, during the 3 week period before they sprayed in 2008, their
records showed no action was taken by the department to reduce mosquito
populations less toxically in the affected area.
Records also show that spraying did not prevent more mosquitoes from
testing positive. By the end of the season, they had 7 positive tests
for West Nile virus in Antioch - 3 were found after they sprayed. This
is not Integrated Pest Management. It is poorly run Pest Management.
We took the results to Vivian Wilohoite (council representative for the
Antioch neighborhood that was sprayed). She volunteered to meet with the
Director of Health about improving Pest Management in Nashville. The
director made some promises for new policies. Later, he announced that
he will use a higher threshold in 2009.
INEFFECTIVE SPRAYING IS
EXPOSED AT THE CITY'S HEALTH AND HOSPITAL COMMITTEE
No Spray Nashville delivered a summary of the Health
Department's records to the Metro Council's Health and Hospital
committee in December 2008 and exposed the Health Department's poor
preventative protocol and lack of effectiveness of the 2008 spraying in
council members volunteered to come with us to talk with the Director of
Health, Dr. Bill Paul, to ask for improvements.
The end result was that Dr. Paul admitted that the Health Department did
not get the result they had hoped for after spraying in 2008. He also
agreed that West Nile virus was not and has not been a serious threat in
Nashville. After we pointed to records showing that less toxic measures
were not taken prior to spraying, he agreed that they should do a better
job with less toxic measures before resorting to spraying. He later made
the announcement that they would raise the threshold for spraying. In
2009, they did not spray and we expect that if the new threshold is
upheld that spraying is unlikely in the future.
We have to commend Dr. Paul for doing what no other health official in
Nashville was willing to do. It took six years and a new director for
the Metro Public Health Department to finally use science, common sense,
and their own records to make wise decisions. We do caution citizens
that some new mosquito borne illness scare or a change in management
could impede this progress. We pledge to keep an eye on their mosquito
control program and to report back on how they are doing with less toxic
The Health Department still has not created detailed
protocols like many cities that do not spray have. They should do this
to help avoid the protocol failures they had in the past. We hope this
will change as we continue to monitor their records and schedule
meetings in the future with them.