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Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Sep 15;40(18):5817-22.

Aquatic effects of aerial spraying for mosquito control over an urban area.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Biology, 3060 Valley Life Sciences Building, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3140, USA.


In an effort to combat West Nile Virus, planes dispersed insecticide over Sacramento, CA, treating nearly 50,000 hectares with pyrethrins and the synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO). Widespread dispersal of insecticide over a metropolitan area, coupled with extensive pretreatment data on the area's urban creeks, provided a unique opportunity to study effects of mosquito control agents on aquatic habitats within an urban setting. There was no evidence of aquatic toxicity from the two active ingredients in the product applied. However, PBO concentrations were high enough to enhance toxicity of pyrethroids already existing in creek sediments from general urban pesticide use. PBO concentrations of 2-4 microg/L were high enough to nearly double the toxicity of sediments to the amphipod Hyalella azteca. Though the increase in toxicity was modest, it was unexpected to find environmental synergy at all. Risk assessments for mosquito control agents have focused on the active ingredients but have failed to recognize the potential for interactions with pesticides previously existing in the environment, which in this case appeared to represent a risk to aquatic life greater than that of the active ingredients themselves.

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