For decades American society has had a substance that could be sprayed on properties to decrease homeowners’ chances of contracting a mosquito-borne illness. However, this substance has met controversy as it could have long lasting negative effects on your health and other living beings, such as: bees, butterflies, dragonflies, cats, frogs, small children and hyper-allergic individuals. Given that risk, some argue that we shouldn’t spray. Don’t Spray Me is an organization in Chester County that fights to stop the use of dangerous pesticides; instead, they educate the community on safer and more effective means of controlling mosquitoes.
Throughout the Borough of West Chester, their lawn signage can be seen. It features a cartoon baby in a gas mask. When looking for a logo, Founder Margaret Hudgings wanted to find something that represented the dangers pesticide spraying had on children, so she searched Google Images for “baby in gas mask” and that image popped up. They got permission from Slovenian artist Daniel Ferencak to use his work, and that is how the baby in the gas mask came about.
Pesticide spraying can be life threatening. These pesticides have been linked with Autism, ADHD, Parkinsons and other kinds of cancers. Hudgings lost her son, Graham, to multiple chemical sensitivity due to spraying. “My son died five months ago after being sick for over 20 years from exposure to pesticide spraying,” said Hudgings. This has been a huge motivation for her and she is passionate about educating others.
An environmental sustainability film series is being screened on West Chester University’s campus. The event is hosted by the university, the Sierra Club and Don’t Spray Me.
Hudgings and the rest of the Don’t Spray Me team hope to eliminate pesticide spraying entirely. With the help of The West Nile Task Force, WNTF, they are on the way to achieving this goal. The WNTF is a group consisting of borough leaders, staff, concerned citizens and the Chester County Health Department, CCHD. Along with Don’t Spray Me, the WNTF hope that by educating the public and utilizing safer methods of controlling mosquitos, they will be able to stop the CCHD from spraying within borough limits.
Additionally, the WNTF has teamed up with the West Chester Borough’s Public Works Department to apply larvicide in 31 storm sewer inlets.
Don’t Spray Me has conducted a group of over 100 block captains that go door to door, encouraging residents to get rid of standing water which is a common breeding ground for mosquitos. Some spots that collect standing water are fountains and bird baths, open trash bins, clogged rain gutters, neglected pools, ponds and potted plant saucers. By paying more attention to these common backyard mosquito sources the need for spraying can greatly decrease. For more information about Don’t Spray Me, getting involved or how to become a block captain, visit www.dontsprayme.com. Hudgings can be reached at (610) 692-3849.
Alexa Brennan is a third-year student majoring in English writings track with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AP713454@wcupa.edu and on Twitter @abrennan_wcu.