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Is government regulation getting in the way in the battle against Zika?

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Is government regulation getting in the way in the battle against Zika?

It's no secret that the Zika virus is now in Florida. Further up the coast, some are saying that Washington regulations are delaying the spraying of pesticides that kill the virus-spreading mosquitos.

For more than 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated the spraying of pesticides under something called the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

It requires that pesticides undergo a series of tests for approval, be registered with the EPA and then only used in accordance with directions on the label.


Not a bad idea considering some of the pesticides have been known to come with health risks, like skin or respiratory disorders. 

In 2009, a court decision ruled that the EPA can require permits for use of pesticides in, or near, water under the Clean Water Act.

Some lawmakers, like Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, say these regulations are redundant, time-consuming and costly.  This could prevent many states and communities from spraying early intervention pesticides. 

In April, a bill called the Zika Vector Control Act was passed by the House and failed in the Senate. The bill would have suspended for two years federal regulations that require permits for some types of pesticides, therefore giving state and local governments more flexibility in fighting Zika.

But environmental groups and Democrats who blocked the bill say the law would keep regulators from knowing what's being sprayed in the water, and could lead to contamination that could harm fish, wildlife and even humans.

Emergency responders in Florida are currently spraying with EPA-approved pesticides, including an aerial spray called Naled. However, many states are still scrambling to combat the epidemic. The fear is that these regulations could stymie efforts to quickly respond to the epidemic. Puerto Rico for instance has refused to spray Naled out of fear it will harm humans and wildlife.

Meanwhile, Congress (which is on vacation) has yet to fully fund an emergency response package aimed at combatting Zika in the U.S. 

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