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Synthesis/Regeneration 31   (Spring 2003)

West Nile Virus

Analysis of Pesticide Spray Periods:
1999 vs. 1997 & 1998

by Jim West, Science Committee, NoSpray Coalition

In early September 1999, New York City began spraying all boroughs with pesticides, using helicopters. In Manhattan, trucks were utilized instead of helicopters. In several instances, schedules were not adhered to that had been publicly announced previously. With Mayor Giuliani leading a military-style campaign, the pesticides (mostly Malathion) were proclaimed to be “harmless.” Environmental groups countered such claims with press releases, demonstrations and No Spray’s lawsuit against NYC in Federal Court. The office of the New York State Attorney General notified the citys corporation counsel to “cease and desist” the practice of calling pesticides harmless.

This application of Malathion upon such a large population was an opportunity for the City to determine the effects of these poisons on large populations decisively, however, the medical industry apparently avoided diagnoses of pesticide illness. Politicians tended to go with the flow. For instance, Mark Green, who held the office of NYC Public Advocate (and won the Democratic Primary for Mayor in 2001), replied that he did not want “to cause alarm, when asked to address the spray campaign.”

Not all of the evidence of this purposeful environmental disaster was ignored. Though the NYC Vital Statistics (“VS”) had disappeared from medical library shelves, a copy of the VS for the period 1997 through 1999 was obtained directly from the New York Department of Health. This was possible because, unlike much DOH data, the VS is a public document. The VS covers nine categories: eight categories of mortality and one category for live birth.

VS CategoryCorrelationComment
Live BirthsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
Total DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
Infant DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
Neonatal DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
TB DeathsNoneNo correlation, yet, virtually no TB deaths
Pneumonia/Flu DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
All Accident DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
Motor Vehicle DeathsPositiveCorrelates with mass poisoning
HIV DeathsNegativeNegative correlation

The argument presented herein is that the pesticide spray program was not harmless, and that it was actually damaging to New Yorkers, as evidenced by the VS.

Method of analysis

An identical date range was established for each of the three years: August 27 to October 22. This date range was selected because it focuses upon the spray period, during 1999: one week before the spray period to one week after the spray period.

Within this date range, for each category, the data for 1998 and 1997 was averaged together and labeled “Pre-Spray Data.” Similarly, the data within 1999 was labeled “Spray Data.” All data was entered into a spreadsheet with the use of Excel software. Graphs and trendlines were created for each of the two sets of data (Spray and Pre-Spray), for each of the nine categories.

Trendlines are linear averages. Linear averages are perceived graphically as straight lines, though the data they represent can be widely varying. Trendlines greatly clarify visualization of trends.


All nine categories of the Vital Statistics correlated with the spray campaign except for two negligible exceptions: (1) tuberculosis, and (2) AIDS. This was because there was virtually no data for tuberculosis. There was almost no TB mortality for any of the sets of data. As for AIDS, the deadly chemotherapy treatment for AIDS (AZT) was discontinued in 1999, resulting in lower mortality for AIDS patients.

Nothing in this study should be surprising because Malathion was controversial within the EPA. It had been banned since 1960 in Japan because of resulting problems such as ocular damage in children. Some studies indicated an increase in the risk of prostrate cancer, with which Mayor Giuliani was apparently diagnosed following the 1999 Malathion campaign while claiming that he was dosed with Malathion five times.

Additionally, insecticides affect non-target organisms as readily as target organisms.

All of the chemical insecticides in use today are neurotoxicants and act by poisoning the nervous systems of the target organisms. The central nervous system (CNS) of insects is highly developed and not unlike that of the mammal... Given the fact that insecticides are not selective and affect nontarget species as readily as target organisms, it is not surprising that a chemical that acts on the insect nervous system will elicit similar effects in higher forms of life.
           —Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology (p. 648)

[18 apr 03]

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