AUGUSTA, Maine — A state legislator’s proposal to ban certain pesticides in Maine has drawn attention from a trade group that says the ban could put public health at risk.
A representative with the group, the American Mosquito Control Association, said Thursday in an email that the two pesticides that would be affected by the legislative proposal — methoprene and resmethrin — have been tested repeatedly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The testing has included the effect of the chemicals on crustaceans and other animals, he indicated.
“According to EPA, methoprene is safe to humans, wildlife and the environment,” Joseph Conlon, a technical adviser for the trade association, wrote in the email. “In fact, methoprene is even safe to consume, being less toxic than table sugar. Resmethrin has the same toxicity as table salt — and [is] far less toxic than many commonly used spices.”
Conlon added that a ban on the pesticides could “unnecessarily expose all Maine residents to increased risk of contracting potentially deadly diseases” such as West Nile virus or eastern equine encephalitis, both of which are transmitted by mosquitos and have been found in Maine.
Many lobstermen, with the support of some scientists, claim that pesticides used to kill or inhibit reproduction by mosquitoes pose a threat to the health of lobsters.
In the mid-2000s, three chemical companies reached multimillion-dollar settlements with Long Island Sound lobstermen who blamed the usage of pesticides in the New York City area for a subsequent die-off in the sound, even though subsequent studies have not shown that pesticides were to blame. Rising ocean temperatures along the entire East Coast have been widely cited as a major factor in declining lobster populations south of Cape Cod, and many have blamed warmer water and other factors for the die-off in the sound.
Nonetheless, Connecticut adopted a new law last year that heavily restricts the use of methoprene and resmethrin in that state.
The bill in Maine, sponsored by state Rep. Walter Kumiega of Deer Isle, would ban the use of methoprene and resmethrin in places where they could drain into the ocean. Kumiega cited the need to protect Maine’s $340 million lobster fishery in a prepared statement about the proposal.