Controversial aerial spraying for Zika set for Friday morning

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Planes will be flying over Miami Beach to spray a controversial insecticide that kills mosquitoes, Friday morning, in an effort to combat the spread of the Zika virus, but some parents, protesters and politicians are voicing their opposition to the spraying.

School safety, in particular, has become a main concern in the fight against the mosquito-borne virus as residents prepared for Friday’s aerial assaults, which as scheduled to take place between 5 and 5:30 a.m.

The county sent out a robo-call to 25,000 families about the spraying, but parents said they don’t want their children anywhere near the pesticides. Some parents are going as far as keeping their kids at home from school Friday to avoid the scheduled aerial spraying.

The school district said they have a plan to keep the students inside in the morning while the spraying is taking place, but if parents are more comfortable with bringing their children to school late, the school will forgive tardiness.

The PTA president at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 School said that he’s even keeping his daughter at home and suggested that other parents do the same. “My daughter will not be attending school tomorrow because of this,” said Stewart Turner. “I don’t think it’s safe, honestly. The school is right in the spray zone, so everything is going to be topical. It is wet and all these kids are going to be touching all this stuff.”

That school is right in the center of the Zika spray zone, as are two others.

“He loves school, but I’m gonna tell them that some chemicals are gonna be in the air,” said parent Jerry Morales. “We prefer for him to be inside, just for today.”

Planes overhead will spray the controversial chemical Naled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have used the chemical extensively for years, and officials said it is not dangerous.

Two tablespoons of the chemical are typically used over the size of a football field. The CDC said, “This small amount does not pose a health risk to people.”

And Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has spoken out in support of its use. “I can assure you that I would not allow spraying of a chemical that would have a toxic impact on residents and visitors,” he said on Wednesday.

But many are skeptical because it is banned in other countries. The European Union has banned the insecticide, and on Miami Beach, protesters have demonstrated against the spraying.

Dr. Barry Ryan of Emory University has said there is a concern it can be harmful to unborn babies. “It is essentially a neurotoxin, and can result in unborn children have developmental problems,” Ryan said.

According to Cornell University, Naled in moderate amounts can cause coughing, tightness of chest, blurred vision, vomiting, headache and dizziness.

Experts also say dozens of studies have shown when pregnant women are exposed to Naled, their children are more likely to develop behavioral problems. But for the most part those studies were done in agricultural area, where families near spraying for many years.

Though some local residents are opposed to the spraying, parent Judy Vega doesn’t think the chemical will do much harm. “I don’t see why people are making so much hype when there is pollution everywhere. I don’t think a little bit of Zika spray is going to hurt anyone, but they are going wild with it,” she said. “People are more concerned about a little poison in spray than a life-and-death situation.”

Protesters who are against the spraying made their concerns known outside Miami Beach City Hall. “For every one person who has expressed concern about Zika, I’ve had 10 people reach out to me to express concern about having a neurotoxin sprayed over the edge of the ocean,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco.

However, Ryan said, the risks from Naled aren’t nearly as big as those posed by Zika. “Children who suffer from this would not be able to cope with the real world. They would not be able to live long, and so on,” he said.

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