The use of pesticides is an important decision that thousands of communities face each year. Nobody likes dealing with mosquitos and the diseases they bring so using chemicals and pesticides is an option but with other consequences. Mosquitos carry West Nile Virus that affects the city of Genericville every year with 50 cases projected this year in the city and two fatalities as well. On the other hand, the chemicals proposed for controlling the mosquito population has its own risks. The pesticide Malathion is also dangerous to people if they come in contact with it before it degrades. The potential for citizens of the city being exposed is almost a certainty with many short and long-term risks being unknown. In this risk assessment I will weigh the consequences of each approach being the use of Malathion on the mosquitos and wetlands or not and battle the mosquitos and West Nile Virus. This assessment will include Hazard identification, dose-response, exposure, and risk characterization. Hazard identification is an important part of learning about pesticides and whether or not to use them.
This asks the question; Does exposure to substance caused increased likelihood of adverse health effects such as cancer or birth defects. When planning to use chemicals like Malathion it is important to learn as much as possible about it. Malathion is a man-made organophosphate insecticide that is commonly used to control mosquitos and a variety of insects that attack fruits vegetables, landscaping plants, and shrubs. (Department of Health, 2009). Malathion is also used indoors to control insects and ticks on pets like cats and dogs. Short-term exposure to high levels of Malathion affects the nervous system causing increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and cramps. I have found no information on long-term effects on humans due to exposure. This doesn’t mean that is none, it means there is not enough research being done to find out. I think it is important to know as much as possible about long and short-term risks of using this chemical. The dose response assessment is the relationship between the amount of exposure and seriousness of its effects.
This chemical has little effect if the exposure is low like someone who is walking through an area that recently was sprayed. Someone who is applying the chemical on a regular basis will have a much greater risk. It seems from the information that I have gathered points to uncommon exposure to the average person depending on the circumstances. Exposure may be the most critical aspect of risk assessment. It measures how much, often, and long humans are exposed to Malathion. Opponents estimate that there could be as many as ninety cases of malathion-related illness from the proposed program with four that may be fatal (Appendix B). Compare that to only the two fatalities projected for the coming mosquito season. In my opinion, the risk of exposure is more dangerous than the risk of WNV due to mosquito bites.
Risk characterization is the probability of people having adverse health effects due to exposure and dose. People who work around these chemicals and farms are more venerable to pesticide exposure than any other groups. Most pesticides are toxic so any exposure carries a risk. The likelihood of experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to any pesticide, including malathion, depends primarily on the amount of pesticide that a person contacts and the amount of time the person is in contact with that pesticide (Department of Health, 2009). Also, some people may be more sensitive to the chemicals than other people.
The amount of risk to the individual depends on the situation. In my opinion, I think that the city of Genericville should refrain from using the chemical Malathion on their wetlands to control the mosquito population. The risk of fatalities is higher due to exposure than infection from West Nile Virus. The risk of harming other wildlife in the process must also be taken into account. Natural predators to the mosquitos like birds and bats should be protected and allowed to thrive to aid in the prevention. Due to the lack of information and research on long term and environmental effects of its use, I vote to not use the chemical until its risks are more identifiable. For now, the risks outweigh the benefits.
Department of Health. (2009, April). Information Sheet: Malathion and Mosquito Control. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from New York State department of