Doris J. Rapp, M.D.

Health Alerts








Dr. Doris J. Rapp M.D.


Public Health Alerts County

County | West Nile Virus


Open Letter to Maricopa County Doctors


We have a crisis situation in Maricopa County, Arizona, and once you are presented with scientific facts, you will understand why your help is needed to convince the county officials that the mosquitoes are not in danger, it is the public. Everyone must realize that chemicals damage the immune, CNS, endocrine and reproductive systems of humans and animals. The pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids are no exception.


County officials are purported to plan to continue to inundate us with massive toxic pyrethroid chemicals.  Forget the unnecessary expenditure of millions of dollars. Forget the potential for law suits for breaking the Clean Water (and Air?) Acts as they presently have in NYC. They are upset in New York because many were harmed by the use of toxic sprays prior to 9/11 and also recently. Forget the fact uninformed individuals have repeatedly assured the county that Anvil is as safe as table salt and that weak concentrations of toxic sprays cannot be harmful. Studies indicate these statements are grossly misleading, erroneous, inaccurate, and potentially very harmful. Anvil (Kontrol) is not simply a mix of crushed chrysanthemums. It has been extensively chemically  altered in preparation so it is more toxic and longer lasting. (Summer 2002, J. of Pesticides) The pyrethroids disrupt the permeability of the nerve membranes. They can inhibit calcium uptake in rat brain cells affecting neurotransmission. What about humans?  There is very little data on inhalation toxicology or on the degradation products or the metabolites of some of the pyrethrins or synthetic pyrethroids.


The following is what is important now.


Facts: How Dangerous Is The Infected Mosquito?


We do not have an epidemic. Three deaths per 6 million people is not a reason to pollute the air, water, food, wildlife and inhabitants of the Phoenix Area.


How Safe Is The Spray?


The reports vary as to how long the spray lasts. Some say 2 hours in sunlight.  Germans report 60 hours and some say it can take a month or more for the chemical to fully dissipate. Other articles say it can last up to 3 months. (“Insecticides in ambient air following application of control for pests”. Env. Contam. Toxic. 26:548-553,l981). The pyrethroid chemicals do bioaccumulate.


We have dust storms that can stir up the chemicals in the saturated soil.  Swamp coolers and leaky roof air conditioners can bring the chemicals into a home. The chemicals can collect in carpets for about 10 weeks putting children and pets in special jeopardy. (J. of High Resolution Chromatography, l997, Vol20 pg 284)  In one study in half the homes studied they found over 60% had permethrin and piperonyl butoxide, as well as other toxic chemicals in the house dust and air. (Environmental Science and Technology 9/2003). What will the indoor levels be after the massive nightly county spraying in this area? Physicians should be recommending air purifiers, such as the Austin, to help remove chemicals as well as dust, molds and pollen and turning off swamp coolers and leaky rooftop air conditioners.


Maricopa County is in a lovely valley that is not similar to windy Chicago. The sprays used nightly can build up and may not be blown away. The pyrethroid spray is 96% inerts, which are reported to contain naptha, propane, isobutene, hydrotreated kerosene, silica, trimethyl benzene and ethyl benzene. In addition, hazardous contaminants in some pyrethroid formulations include ethylene oxide, arsenic and benzene (a common cause of childhood leukemia).  (Insecticide Fact Sheet- Pyrethrins/Pyrethrums, National Coalition of Alternative to Pesticides, Spring, Vol. 22. #1, 2002, 541 344 5044 and The Toxicology and Environmental Fate of Synthetic Pyrethroids, J. of Pesticide Reform, Vol. 10, # 3, l990- 415-541-9140). They can certainly adversely affect the health of the inhabitants of this area acutely and chronically.  (See Our Toxic World, A Wake Up Call, by Doris J. Rapp, M.D., Chapter 8 To obtain the book call 1 800 787 8780 for a 20% discount or call Amazon). To find out more about safer better ways to control a mosquito or West Nile viral problem see


Who Can Be Affected?


The subset of the population that is most apt to be affected by either the West Nile virus or the spray are the unborn, the very young, the elderly and those who have a depressed immune system. This includes those who have allergies, autoimmune diseases or those who have had chemotherapy for cancer. 


The spray, however, can cause those who have never had sensitivity to chemicals to develop this problem. You will see patients who suddenly complain that chemicals that never bothered them before are now developing symptoms from a whiff of perfume, lawn spray or putting gas in the car. They will begin to smell chemicals what others do not notice. They also may complain they have suddenly developed allergies that were never present before. You will also see other patients who already have chemical sensitivities because they will relapse and suddenly become immensely ill. Some will die. These are the ones who say they collapse when they go outside if the air is polluted with chemicals. These are the ones who leave the city and come back and are desperately ill in minutes, outside and inside their homes. (Read book by Ashford and Miller- entitled Chemical Exposures, Low Levels and High Stakes.)

The Acute Signs and Symptoms


The effects of the spray can be acute and easily confused with other illnesses. We will know the facts only if the records of school health officials and emergency rooms are scrutinized. Look for headaches, weakness, lack of energy, nausea, dizziness, swollen red eyes, a stuffy nose, chest congestion, salivation and rashes Of course these symptoms are non-specific and easily confused with many other illnesses but be suspicious if they become evident or worse in the morning after spraying. Watch for numbness or burning of the skin, burning of the throat, unexplained tender skin spots, sudden nosebleeds, twitches, seizures or swollen glands. Some can have an immediate asthma attack. Infants, in particular, will be prone to this. (Environmental Health Perspectives, on line 12/9/03.)  Some will develop an arrhythmia, others a heart attack. Some will have an increased sensitivity to sound and touch, in particular strange facial sensations. Some will have, urgency to void or unusual behavior or activity. Some might develop anemia as evidenced in laboratory animals. Pyrethroids raise the blood sugar levels in gerbils. What about humans? We don’t know. Would you suspect a chemical was the cause if you noted these symptoms in patients in the next few weeks?

Blood, urine and saliva pyrethroid tests are available. Until you can get a kit, collect urine in a clean glass bottle and refrigerate it. Call Accuchem or Immunoscience Lab.  Some the above symptoms will last only a few days; for others it can be just the beginning of the illness called a chemical sensitivity, which can last for a lifetime.


Am I exaggerating? No. One woman died after using a pyrethroid flea shampoo on her dog. (Clinical Toxicology 32(4) pg 457, l994.) Some can expire quickly if they have a chemical sensitivity. Cindy Dheuring died suddenly when they did not warn her, as they were supposed to, and sprayed too close to her home.


The good news is that in mammals, the acute signs of toxicity are usually temporary and diminish.


Potential and Definite Chronic Heath Effects


Common unsuspected effects could include loss of memory. If the behavioral, or memory changes are severe, or prolonged, SPECT or other brain imaging might help make a definitive diagnosis. (Read articles by Gunnar Heuser, MD, PhD and Theodore Simon, MD.)


Women exposed to organic solvents have a 13 fold increased chance of having a child with birth defects and developmental delay. (JAMA 1999) Solvents make up a large part of Anvil or Kontol. How many of the “inerts” in this spray will pass into the placenta and breast milk? Studies have shown exposed cows have pyrethroids in their milk. Low- level chemical exposures are thought to affect one in six children in the USA. (E Magazine, article entitled “Widespread Chemical Exposure Threatens Our Most Vulnerable Population” by Jennifer Bogo.) Will mothers or their doctors recognize that the spraying going on in 2004 caused these types of problems a few years from now?


Pyrethrins are considered by the EPA to be “likely human carcinogens”. Farmers who use pyrethrins have a 3.7 fold increased risk of leukemia.  If the pesticide sprayers in Maricopa County develop cancer in a few years, who will suspect it was the spray?


What about the children? Under the age of 5 years, there has been a 53% increase in brain cancer, and an 18% increase in leukemia. Other reports state there is a 25% increase in the past 25 years of brain tumors in children. (The Politics of Cancer Revisited by Dr. Samuel Epstein.) Simply using garden pesticides can increase by six fold the chances of a child developing leukemia. Flea preparations can increase the chances of a brain cancer in children by 2 to 4 fold. (National Cancer Institute 1987) Can we really afford to wait and see what the pyrethroid spray does to the children in the Phoenix community? 

Some will have a decreased sperm count. Will infertile couples consider this when they cannot conceive during the next few months or years?  In NYC some of the pesticide applicators are complaining of impotence. Chemicals have definitely caused penises to be deformed and other sexual problems in animals and man. (Chapter 5 of my book, Our Toxic World-1 800 787 8780). It is known that pyrethroids alter the normal functioning of sex hormones.  One report tells of the estrogenic potential of pyrethroid compounds in human breast carcinoma cell lines. (Env. Health Perspectives, Vol. 107, #3, March 1999) One report states miscarriages and preterm babies can be caused by pyrethroid-like compounds. Liver tumors are more evident in exposed female rats and kidney disease such as degenerated tubules are also reported. (see Fact Sheet on pyrethrums for specific references) They also cause thyroid tumors in animals. Exposed mice have more lung cancer and parathyroid tumors. Will you wonder about the 2004 spray exposures when you see patients with these problems in the next few years?

You might want to do chemical blood/urine studies on all ADHD, developmentally delayed children, cancer, and sex related problem patients. (See Chapter 13 of  Is This Your Childs World? by Doris J. Rapp, M.D., for diagnostic tests to detect chemicals. 1 800 787 8780)


What about Your Pets and Wildlife?


Cats are particularly sensitive to pyrethrins because of detoxification weaknesses. If exposed they can salivate more, act depressed, have a change in behavior, anorexia and high temperatures. Dogs have developed atrophied testicles. 


Fish and bees are exceedingly sensitive. (The ants in my front lawn were dead the morning after the spray was used in my area.)


Are Officials Advising Correctly about Use of DEET?


To complicate the issue some Maricopa decision makers are pushing the use of DEET preparations by adults and children to prevent mosquito bites. Most doctors are aware the 30% DEET has led to deaths in children. Less well know is the fact it is absorbed more readily on sunburned or broken skin.  We must ask if lower concentrations really are that safe for children. In addition, Dr. Abou- Donia at Duke University has published a series of articles specifically demonstrating that synergistic effects of combined chemicals and his example is DEET and the pyrethroids compounds! (J of Toxicology and Environmental Health and Experimental Neurology 2001 and see other scientific references on pg 20 of Pesticides and You, winter 2003 and 4, Vol. 22 # 3.) Increased blood brain barrier permeability actually can lead to cell death of brain mitochondria in rats and the blood testis barrier is also affected. Safer more effective topical preparations are available.


I sincerely hope you will consider the above facts and help to increase the Maricopa County legislator’s awareness of the many dangers of the nightly spray they are presently using on 36,000 acres. We should be protecting our children and ourselves from these toxins. Safer, less expensive and more effective methods forms of mosquito control are certainly available. *


Doris J. Rapp is a retired M.D., board- certified in pediatrics, allergy and environmental medicine.


*In relation to some treatment options that appear to help, refer to under “Are You Sick from the West Nile Virus or Chemical Sprays?” or in Chapter 8 of Our Toxic World, A Wake Up Call, 800.787.8780) or see Chemicals and Pregnancy and “Why and How to Protect Your Home and Town.”


Doris J. Rapp, M.D. Board Certified in:
Pediatrics, Allergy and Environmental Medicine
Former Clinical Assistant Prof. Pediatrics at SUNY at Buffalo 

August 24, 2004

County | West Nile Virus


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