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PRLIMINARY REPORT ON THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF AERIAL SPRAYING OF THE LEPIDOPTERAN PHEROMONE CHECKMATE OLR-F

Submitted by Emeritus a Professor, D.V.M., Ph.D.,
of Pharmacology and Toxicology
(whose name is currently being withheld untill further reports have been obtained)

 

I have conducted a search of several scientific databases (Biosis, PubMed, EmBase, Scopus) looking for reports in the open literature of mammalian toxicity of this product and its active ingredients, without success. This suggests that toxicity testing was conducted "in-house" by the manufacturer or in government laboratories. This conclusion is supported by the references provided in the USDA report (July 2007) forwarded to me. These are mostly government reports. Cited journal articles refer almost exclusively to the effects on Lepidoptera.

Information provided suggests low mammalian toxicity of this agent. The lethal dose 50% (LD50) orally is 5000 mg/kg in rats and 2000 mg/kg dermally in rabbits. The lethal concentration 50% (LC50) was over 5 mg/L. Poor water solubility, high volatility and susceptibility to breakdown by ultraviolet light are felt to minimize risks to humans and other non-target species.

By now (Sun., Sept. 9/07) the initial aerial spraying presumably has occurred. This probably took place at night to minimize human exposure and involved low-level flights that carry their own risks. I would predict that no public information campaign could protect the public from the psychological stress created by exposure to aerial sprays of any sort, even water. If past experience is any indication, hospital emergency departments will experience a rash of patients complaining of respiratory distress, coughing, wheezing etc. attributed to the spray even if the real cause is viral or allergic. Patients suffering from asthma are especially vulnerable.
Lawsuits inevitably follow such incidents.

The product label for CheckMate OLR-F contains the following precautionary statement:

Harmful if absorbed through the skin; causes moderate eye irritation; avoid contact with skin, eyes or clothing; harmful if inhaled. Avoid breathing vapor or spray mist.

While this statement is directed mainly at handlers and applicators it will provide ammunition for those who feel damaged by exposure to this product. It is well documented that after every major environmental accident there is a rash of vague medical problems such as headache, nausea, dizziness etc. The importance of such psychological stress should not be underestimated.

One further item is worthy of note:

A study

(1) was conducted on the cytotoxicity and mutagenicity of four lepidopteran pheromones. The authors used a standardized Ames test that employs a strain of Salmonella bacteria. This test is used routinely when new drugs or viously reported in a mammalian cell test system, (suggesting these agents are not carcinogenic) they found that they had significant cytotoxicity (they were cell poisons). This toxicity was markedly reduced when bovine serum albumin was added to the culture medium. These agents showed a strong tendency to bind to plasma proteins and the authors suggest that this may in part explain their low mammalian toxicity as the bound form would not be available to the cells of the host.

Conclusions

1. The use of pheromones for insect control is widely held to be a much safer approach than the use of conventional insecticides and should therefore not be opposed simply "on principle". As noted in the USDA report the alternative is to allow orchardists, vintners, market gardeners etc to institute their own control measures that could involve the use of organochlorine and organophosphorus insecticides

2. Aerial spraying of urban areas for any reason is usually a political mine field resulting increased pressure on health care facilities and fraught with the risk of lawsuits.

3. No evidence of long term studies on the risks to humans of this agent could be found.

4. Skin, eye and respiratory irritation with this agent have been reported
and are noted on the product label.


5. One study noted significant cytotoxicity of such pheromones in a standard test widely employed in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Sensitive populations
with pre-existing medical conditions could be vulnerable to long-term effects
.

6. This reviewer is of the opinion that ground-based applications of this agent are much more palatable to the public and, despite the increased expense, minimize potential hazards associated with aerial spraying

 

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