SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 13, 2014

Our view: Landowners have say in bug-spraying debate

Swatting mosquitoes on a mass scale is never easy; there are always tradeoffs. However, we feel strongly that the rights of individual property owners should be protected in the quest to spray the nasty little stingers into oblivion.

In recent years, concerns over potentially deadly mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis have greatly increased the insecticide spraying done in our local communities. Typically it happens in the mid to late summer, when outbreaks of diseases occur.

But there are many people who don’t want their property sprayed — upward of 600 in this corner of Essex County alone. These requests create holes in the blanket of insecticide coverage, and, according to mosquito spraying agencies, those holes are potential spots for disease-laden mosquitoes to thrive. Because mosquitoes can travel for many miles, that isolated spot in Newbury could potentially be the home of mosquitoes that bite a child in Ipswich.

The situation has created an interesting debate that pits public health against property rights. Both sides have strong arguments, but in this case the interests of property owners should gain the upper hand. Marblehead and Swampscott have banned the public use of chemical pesticides entirely, focusing on the use of traps to kill mosquito larvae.

Spraying for mosquitoes is an extremely invasive procedure that sends a wide swath of chemicals across neighborhoods, forests, fields, and waterways. While spraying is primarily intended for killing mosquitoes, the active ingredients are not selective. Some humans may have sensitivities to the chemicals, and certainly many lesser species do.

Property owners should have a say over what gets sprayed over their property, and what is placed in contact with their home.

There’s no doubt that the widespread spraying of these chemicals is a cost-effective way to impact the mosquito population. The vast majority of property owners aren’t bothered by the spraying, and so the efforts to blanket-spray are fairly effective — but not completely effective.

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