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Is Miami-Dade County's aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes harmful to your health?

Man says Saturday's spraying landed on people eating near Biscayne Bay

MIAMI – A lifelong Miami resident was outraged over the weekend when Miami-Dade mosquito control crews sprayed chemicals from an airplane that are meant to kill off mosquitoes and stop the spread of the Zika virus.

"I just couldn't believe it," Christian de la Iglesia said. "There are people hanging out. There are people on the deck having drinks and about to eat food and stuff."

De la Iglesia, who owns Beach Paddle & Company, took video of the aerial spraying Saturday from his cellphone.

"We noticed this smaller charter plane traveling pretty low," he said. "And all of a sudden you see stuff coming out of its wings."

De la Iglesia was at an event on the west side of Bicayne Bay near 31st Street. 

He told Local 10 News that he is concerned over three things: That no major warnings were given and that he is unsure about what is being sprayed and whether the chemicals have long-term effects.

"What sort of damages can come afterwards with the spray, and does that balance out with what we're trying to prevent in the long run? That knee-jerk reaction scares me," De la Iglesia said.

Local 10 News received several calls from other concerned residents over the weekend. 

Miami-Dade County's mosquito control team has done three flights so far to combat the Zika virus.

It generally tries to fly as early as possible, but Saturday's flight was later. 

"It was first time we flew a specific substance of larvicide," Miami-Dade Solid Waste Management communications manager Frank Calderon said.

The goal was to target mosquito larvae, and to do that, Calderon said you have to fly low -- about 100 feet from the ground.

"For the pilot's safety, for the safety of the people on the ground and that sort of thing, they need to fly when there is light and when they can see what's out there," he said.

Calderon said the larvicide, called BTI, is a harmless and effective chemical that targets mosquitoes and a couple other harmful insects. 

"I'm not going to quite call it safe, but it's relatively harmless," he said. "The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), in fact, says it poses little risk to human health."

De la Iglesia was not quite convinced.

"Condos, you know all that stuff, the residuals stay on railings," he said. "People come out, hang out, they're touching the railing (and) they're touching their face afterwards."

County officials said residuals typically rinse away with rain water.

Check Miami-Dade County Solid Waste Management's Facebook  or Twitter to find out when aerial spraying will take place.

Meanwhile, Wynwood's business owners crowded into a meeting Monday morning  to talk about marketing. They said the weekend's bad weather and the Zika scare has made the turnout in customers lower than expected.

"On Saturday night we took in like 10 percent of our regular revenue, so we have taken a major hit. Economically, it's a disaster for us," Owen Bale of Our House said.

Some employers are also having a hard time getting people to come into work, especially pregnant women, because of the outbreak.

The county plans to spray the area to kill mosquitoes once a week for four weeks.


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