In Dallas, Southeastern Massachusetts, and elsewhere public health officials are deciding to suppress populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes using aerial pesticide spraying. David Savitz, professor of epidemiology and obstetrics and gynecology, says deciding to spray is a judgment call, but that because the pesticides have been designed to be harmful only to mosquitoes, the harm to human health has been minimized.

David Savitz: “Spraying may well be justified as the safest and wisest course of action.”
David Savitz “Spraying may well be justified as the safest and wisest course of action.”
Whenever we consider spraying pesticides in residential areas, the question naturally arises regarding whether the benefits of spraying outweigh the potential risks.   While pesticides are toxic by design, the potential for harm to humans has been minimized by selecting agents that are as specific to the intended organisms as possible and using pesticides that degrade very quickly following application.  The threat of West Nile Virus is real, as indicated by the outbreak in Texas.  If the judgment is made that spraying reduces the risk of viral disease and poses little or no threat to human health, spraying may well be justified as the safest and wisest course of action, but that assessment has to be made on a location-by-location basis based largely on how serious the threat of West Nile virus is.