Insecticide used to fight Zika is controversial

Tammie Fields with the latest on the virus both here and in South Florida.

St. Petersburg, Florida -- A controversy is growing over the safest way to fight Zika across Florida.  Miami is spraying for mosquitoes using specialized trucks for the first time today but some critics say the spray isn't going to do the trick.

We're watching what's going on in Miami closely since the chemicals being used there are also being used in parts of the Bay area.  In Miami they're spraying what's being called an environmentally friendly and organic bacteria called BTI. Critics say it isn't strong enough and a more potent chemical should be used instead.

Early this morning trucks drove through Miami Beach spraying B-T-I. Miami officials hope it will kill off Zika's carrier the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Laura McGowan is with the company hired by Miami Dade County to spray. McGowan says, "It's very benign to humans. BTI attacks the actual larva of the mosquito getting into their gut and making it so they can't process food and can't develop."

In August, Miami Dade County began aerial spraying in Wynwood, a Zika zone north of Downtown Miami, alternating between BTI and a powerful neurotoxin called Naled.

Tanjim Hossain is a graduate research fellow at the University of Miami. He says Naled can essentially kill anything. He adds, "When a droplet of the insecticide touches a mosquito it kills the mosquito pretty much instantaneously. It's considered a contact insecticide."

Though effective Naled is controversial.

The insecticide was banned from the European Union and protested in Puerto Rico, one of the hardest hit Zika zones in the world. Officials there say Naled is dangerous for pregnant women and could result in their babies developing behavioral issues.

The CDC and the EPA both insist it's safe.

Gov. Rick Scott says the CDC is recommending Miami Beach use helicopters to spray now. But Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Greico says the people in his community are opposed to aerial spraying. Greico says, "The governor has a job to do but at the same time he's not boots on the ground here in Miami Beach. We are. We know what the people want."

Greico is calling on Miami-Dade County to stop using Naled all together.  The mayor of Miami Dade County says the insecticide has proven to be effective. The CDC says it's up to Miami Beach. Aerial spraying for Zika will begin in Miami Dade early Thursday morning. Crews will be spraying the insecticide Naled.

 


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