"Lyme Disease Tick Study Stirs Dispute"

"Hundreds of Baltimore-area families have volunteered for a government study to spray their suburban yards with pesticide, which researchers hope can protect them from Lyme disease but that environmentalists warn is unsafe."

"The goal, federal and state health officials say, is to find a new way to prevent the widespread illness, which is spread by tick bites and can cause fever, headaches and fatigue -- and, if untreated, may even affect joints, nerves and the heart.

Half of the 185 families who've signed up this year in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties are having the edges of their yards sprayed with bifenthrin, a chemical pesticide commonly applied around homes to fight ticks, fleas and mosquitoes. The others, without knowing it, are getting their property sprayed with water so officials can judge the effectiveness of the treatment.

'The question is, does it actually prevent a common, sometimes severe disease -- and second, what's the lowest dose you can do?' said Dr. Clifford S. Mitchell, assistant director for environmental health and food protection in the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Environmental activists, though, contend that the study itself is putting the families at risk. Adults and children alike are being exposed to a pesticide that is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a possible carcinogen, critics say, and that is being studied by the EPA for possible harm to reproductive and immune systems, among other things."

Timothy B. Wheeler reports for the Baltimore Sun May 29, 2012.

Source: Baltimore Sun, 05/30/2012