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GOP Lawmakers Urge Obama To Stop Hindering Pesticides That Could Fight Zika

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A group of six Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for his support on legislation that would roll back strict environmental regulations on mosquito spraying to help Americans fight the Zika virus.

“Eliminating this unnecessary, duplicative permit requirement will encourage communities to spray for mosquitoes on a regular basis and help alleviate the burdens on our public health system by preventing the spread of Zika today, rather than reacting to it tomorrow,” reads a letter signed by two House and four Senate lawmakers, led by Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs, obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Gibbs and fellow lawmakers argue a 2009 federal court decision has made it harder to preemptively spray to keep mosquito populations in check. Such pesticides are already regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lawmakers are urging Obama to back legislation making it easier to use pesticides against mosquitoes in light of the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

“If the Administration does not work with Congress to address this potentially life-threatening issue, the Zika crisis in Puerto Rico will certainly spread to the continental United States, threatening the health and safety of all Americans, especially women of childbearing age and millions of unborn children,” Republicans wrote.

Republicans pointed out the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EPA have both endorsed aerial mosquito spraying to fight the spread of Zika in Puerto Rico. The Zika virus has already infected hundreds of pregnant women in Latin America, and has been linked to birth defects.

Zika has already hit Puerto Rico, and as many as 50 pregnant women a day are being infected by the disease. The CDC has issued a level 2 warning for the island territory, meaning pregnant women should take “enhanced precautions.”

“If any part of the continental U.S. had the kind of spread of Zika that Puerto Rico has now, they would have sprayed months ago,” CDC head Tom Frieden recently said. “This is more a question of neglect than anything else.”

Currently, island officials are debating whether to kill mosquitos with the chemical Naled, but this suggestion sparked protests from environmentalists who argued it could harm human health and wildlife.

“If we wait until children with microcephaly are born, it will be too late,” Frieden said. “That’s the problem.”

Puerto Rico also suffered a major setback in its fight against Zika after the EPA effectively banned the production of the chemical temephos, which is a powerful spray that’s been used to fight mosquitoes since 1965.

“We urge you to consider Administrator McCarthy’s comments that spraying can be accomplished ‘safely and effectively’ and seriously consider these warnings from your directors at the CDC and the EPA,” Republicans wrote.

“We must take action this week to quickly and appropriately commence a thorough mosquito abatement program, as included in the Zika conference package, immediately before the virus spreads further,” they wrote.

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