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Survey says …

Submitted by on 1, April 11, 2008 – 7:23 amNo Comment

The state health and pesticide folks have released their much-anticipated analysis of the hundreds of health complaints that followed aerial pheromone spraying of cities in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties late last year, as part of the state’s opening salvo in its war on the light brown apple moth. And what they determined was … that they can’t really say whether or not the spray made all those people sick.

The report’s authors, from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Department of Public Health, say they lack the information needed to determine whether the spray caused the reported sprayees’ symptoms, which included shortness of breath, upper respiratory pain, wheezing, headaches and diarrhea. They complain that few of the reports came from medical providers, though they also note that medical tests that would diagnose or confirm that someone’s symptoms were caused by the spray don’t actually exist.

But the report’s authors say human exposures to this spray would be low. And heck, the report says, Californians get sick all the time, without anything at all to blame it on. So is it fair to blame the spray?

State agriculture officials seem cheered by the report. “It’s my hope (the) report will help ease the minds of those concerned about the Light Brown Apple Moth eradication program and open a positive dialogue,’’ California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura says in a press release.

But Mike Lynberg, the Pacific Grove writer who has collected more than 800 reports from people who said they were sickened by the spray, says his mind is definitely not eased. At a press conference held yesterday, OEHHA chief Joan E. Denton conceded to Lynberg that her report doesn’t conclusively rule the possibility that the spray sickened people.

“I wasn’t satisfied at all with their level of diligence, their level of care in analyzing the hundreds of illnesses reported so far,” Lynberg says. “It was not a thorough job at all.”

So the march to spray continues (and don’t forget, they’re spraying here), though this time the agencies that authored the report are putting together a program to collect the symptom and illness reports the state didn’t really bother to get the last time around, and they are training doctors on how to spot potential spray-related symptoms for when the state starts spraying again this summer. They’ll also speak slowly and clearly on the importance and effectiveness of their efforts to eradicate the moth, as well as the potential health risks.

If you want to check it out for yourself, the report is here, though I’d pull it down quick, because the state agency website it’s on is going to be down for most of this weekend. You can also check out the story in the Chronicle here.

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