Pesticide spraying for West Nile virus control and emergency department asthma visits in New York City, 2000

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Aug;112(11):1183-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6946.


Pyrethroid pesticides were applied via ground spraying to residential neighborhoods in New York City during July-September 2000 to control mosquito vectors of West Nile virus (WNV). Case reports link pyrethroid exposure to asthma exacerbations, but population-level effects on asthma from large-scale mosquito control programs have not been assessed. We conducted this analysis to determine whether widespread urban pyrethroid pesticide use was associated with increased rates of emergency department (ED) visits for asthma. We recorded the dates and locations of pyrethroid spraying during the 2000 WNV season in New York City and tabulated all ED visits for asthma to public hospitals from October 1999 through November 2000 by date and ZIP code of patients' residences. The association between pesticide application and asthma-related emergency visits was evaluated across date and ZIP code, adjusting for season, day of week, and daily temperature, precipitation, particulate, and ozone levels. There were 62,827 ED visits for asthma during the 14-month study period, across 162 ZIP codes. The number of asthma visits was similar in the 3-day periods before and after spraying (510 vs. 501, p = 0.78). In multivariate analyses, daily rates of asthma visits were not associated with pesticide spraying (rate ratio = 0.92; 95% confidence interval, 0.80-1.07). Secondary analyses among children and for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease yielded similar null results. This analysis shows that spraying pyrethroids for WNV control in New York City was not followed by population-level increases in public hospital ED visit rates for asthma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mosquito Control*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New York City
  • Pyrethrins / adverse effects*
  • Seasons
  • Urban Population
  • West Nile Fever / prevention & control*
  • West Nile virus / pathogenicity


  • Air Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Pyrethrins