New York Woman Drenched with Pesticide by City

Saturday, September 09, 2000

 Artist: I’m A Victim Of Skeeter Spraying

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief

She wanted to make a phone call.

Instead, a Manhattan woman standing near a phone booth on Eighth Ave. Sunday ended up in the hospital after she said she was drenched, point-blank, with a blast of pesticide intended to kill mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.

Bug Spraying in Midtown Manhatten last July

"It burned. It itched. I was coughing, I was choking," said the woman, an artist who lives in Inwood but asked that her name be withheld.

"My vision is blurry. I have terrible nausea. I threw up three days in a row," she said. It was "a straight shot into my face, my eyes, my nose, my mouth — drenching me."

"I really thought I was going to die."

The case raises questions about the account of city officials, who as recently as yesterday insisted they were unaware of any incident in which New Yorkers suffered health problems as a result of exposure to the insecticide being used to kill mosquitoes, Anvil.

The woman said she reported the case to city and state health agencies, and said she was given a diagnosis of "pesticide exposure" at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she was treated Monday.

The hospital confirmed the woman was an emergency room patient, but refused to disclose her diagnosis because of confidentiality rules.

A city health official confirmed that the woman called the city's pesticide hotline just after the incident to complain of itching and a swollen tongue.

Sandra Mullin, a Health Department spokesman, said the call was one of 200 complaints from people who suspect they've been sickened by the anti-West Nile spraying.

"Those are still being analyzed to see if they are associated with the spraying," Mullin said.

State Health Department spokesman Kristine Smith confirmed that at least one of four cases of reported pesticide poisoning under investigation is in New York City.

But she declined to say whether it involved the same woman.

In a letter to Mayor Giuliani yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields complained that not enough is being done to avoid accidental exposure.

According to the woman, she was waiting with a friend to use a pay phone at 58th St. and Eighth Ave. Sunday at 10:45 p.m. when a truck escorted by a police car passed just a few feet from where she and several other pedestrians were standing.

"A car came with police lights, and it's making the noise like they are escorting a dignitary," she said. "I thought we were going to see the President."

"All of the sudden, [the truck] comes through the intersection. ... I see spray coming out of the spray truck ... 4 to 5 feet in front of my face. ... Everybody goes, 'Oh my God.'"

The Health Department said spraying was conducted in Manhattan on Sunday between 23rd and 110th Sts. from midnight to 5 a.m. — 75 minutes later than the woman reported being sprayed.

The woman's effort to get help turned into a Labor Day weekend nightmare.

She said she called a city poison line, only to find a recording. Eventually, she said she spoke with officials at a New Jersey poison hotline, who advised her to shower thoroughly and rinse her eyes.

But the effects persisted, sending her to the hospital Monday. She has visited her eye doctors three times and is returning to the hospital today.

The woman, who has a form of asthma that reacts to chemicals, said she is concerned about the long-term effects of the Anvil blast because she also is at high risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer.

"I'm on the edge of having cancer, and what is this going to do?" she asked.

Anvil Facts 
Anvil, a pesticide used to kill mosquitoes, contains sumithrin and piperonyl butoxide. Sumithrin is a synthetic pesticide similar to a natural pesticide, pyrethrum. Piperonyl butoxide increases the effectiveness of sumithrin. 
Possible side effects from Anvil spraying: 
    Eye, skin, nose and throat irritation, breathing problems. 
Victim's symptoms: 
    Coughing, rash, blurred vision, nausea, tremors, dizziness, swollen tongue.
Long-term health effects: 
Sources: N.Y.C. Department of Health,
N.Y. State Department of Health,
Environmental Health Perspectives. Environmental Health Perspectives.

Original Article:

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