Chemical Pesticides Bug Some, City Says Organic Too Expensive

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's budget limits are having a dual effect on mosquito control, preventing the city from testing for West Nile and requiring it to rely on chemical pesticides, despite a call for organic pest control.

The city's environmental health supervisor said Columbia would pursue switching to an organic pest control spray if the money were available.

"Those types of products are newer to the market and cost more than what our current budget will allow," Kayla Wekenborg said.

"Being able to branch out into those organic products is something we're pursuing and doing as our budget allows," she said.

Columbia does not have a formal policy for mosquito control but sprays two types of pesticides in parks, fields, and on trails during the summer months.

The pesticides are called Anvil 2 Plus 2 and Duet and are manufactured by Clark Mosquito Control. The products do not require restricted use according to the EPA.

The city has had a contract with Clark for the past nine years, Wekenborg said.

Some residents said they would like to see the city switch to an organic pest control company.

The owner of one such company said organic spray is more family friendly and more effective than pesticides.

"You can use it and walk right in it safely, Nina Cain said. "I don't need protection when I apply it and any animal or person can walk right through it after without it hurting them."

Cain and her husband started Cain's Organic Mosquito Control early July.

Customers said the organic option is a good one.

Kerry Thomas said, "I was completely amazed you can actually control the insects without all the dangerous chemicals. I have seven grandchildren and cats and dogs so the organic spray just makes sense."

Thomas is grandfather of seven and said he was itching for a safe solution to keep bugs from biting his family.

Pests can carry several diseases and Cain's clients said they wanted to have their homes sprayed to protect them.

Zach Turner, who has two daughters, said pests are constantly biting them while they play in the yard.

"Our girls were getting big rashes from all the bug bites and we were concerned about them getting West Nile. I know it happens more in kids because they're out running around more than the parents," said Turner.

In past years, the city would send mosquito samples to Southeast Missouri State University to test for West Nile and other diseases.

However, Wekenborg said the city no longer conducts any type of mosquito surveillance because the state no longer has the funds for trapping and testing.

"The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services used to have resources available to local county health departments, but over the years that funding has dwindled," she said.

Female mosquitoes generally lay their eggs in still standing water and can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. However, pesticide labels often warn against using the product near bodies of water as a precaution.

If contaminated, water can be harmful to people and pets. The city follows CDC regulations for the use of pesticides, but Cain and her clients said they wish the city would consider switching to an organic product.