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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The debate began raging last summer when Miami-Dade, in a Zika virus epidemic, began dumping Naled, a controversial mosquito-killing pesticide over areas where the mosquito-borne virus was raging.
Demonstrators took to the streets to protest what they considered the poisoning of the population in the areas being sprayed with Naled by airplanes.
“Please prepare yourself to hold your breath!” one demonstrator shouted through a bullhorn outside Miami Beach city hall last September where a large group had gathered.
Amid the protests, the county used aerial Naled under a rare “Emergency Use Authorization” from the federal government, which has since declared the community Zika free and lifted a travel ban.
Still, Miami-Dade has twice sprayed Naled over most of the county this year, in late June and early July, even though there has been no new case of locally transmitted Zika. It has prompted a lawsuit by residents.
While studies have shown Zika can cause babies to be born with brain defects, recent studies show Naled may cause developmental disorders in children, and contribute to autism.
“What we’re doing to our environment could potentially harm these developing babies and maybe create a whole generation that may be impaired later on,” said Dr. Michael Hall, a family practitioner on Miami Beach and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Miami-Dade.
Naled – that can eat the paint off a car with a good spray – is accused of making people ill last summer.
“I got sick from being sprayed on with the Naled. I got nose bleeds and respiratory problems,” said Cindy Mattson, among those joining in the lawsuit against the county.
The county has been spraying for mosquitos on the ground, using natural larvicide to kill unhatched mosquitos, and less noxious chemicals to kill adults. Naled is never applied at ground level.
Its use – beyond the two recent aerial applications – has been put back in the hanger, for the moment.
“At this time, there are no plans for additional aerial treatment, at this time,” said Gayle Love of Miami-Dade Public Works, which oversees mosquito control.
But the county’s mayor says if mosquito populations soar or Zika crops up, the Naled-spewing planes will go back up.
“We will continue to do that until the EPA or somebody else says we shouldn’t do that anymore,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez at a news conference Tuesday that focused on his proposed county budget, including spending for mosquito control.
Critics hope U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno will tell the county don’t “do that anymore,” don’t keep spraying a controversial pesticide developed for agricultural use over people and other living things in densely populated urban areas.
Judge Moreno will hear arguments in the case Wednesday afternoon. If he determines the Naled challenge may go forward, it’s believed he would most likely enjoin – prohibit – the county from using the chemical until a trial can be held on the merits.