Assessing the atmospheric fate of pesticides used to control mosquito populations in Houston, TX.

Affiliation

Guberman VerPloeg SL(1), Clark AE(2), Yoon S(1), Hildebrandt Ruiz L(3), Sheesley RJ(1), Usenko S(4).
Author information:
(1)Department of Environmental Science, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97266, Waco, TX, 76798, USA.
(2)Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97348, Waco, TX, 76798, USA.
(3)McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.
(4)Department of Environmental Science, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97266, Waco, TX, 76798, USA; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97348, Waco, TX, 76798, USA. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

During the summer months, urban areas are literal hot spots of mosquito-borne disease transmission and air pollution. Public health authorities release aerosolized pesticides directly into the atmosphere to help control adult mosquito populations and thereby reduce the threat of diseases, such as Zika Virus. The primary adulticides (i.e. pesticides used to control adult mosquito populations) in Houston, TX are permethrin and malathion. These adulticides are typically sprayed at night using ultra-low volume sprayers. Particulate matter (PM) samples including total suspended and fine PM (PM < 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter) were collected at four ground-based sites across Houston in 2013 and include daytime, nighttime, and 24 h samples. Malathion is initially sprayed as coarse aerosol (5-25 μm), but is measured in fine aerosol (<2.5 μm) and coarse aerosol in the urban atmosphere. Particle size is relevant both for deposition velocities and for human exposure. Atmospheric permethrin concentrations measured in nighttime samples peak at 60 ng m-3, while malathion nighttime concentrations peak near 40 ng m-3. Malaoxon, an oxidation product of malathion, was also frequently detected at concentrations >10 ng m-3, indicating significant nighttime oxidation. Based on the loss of malathion and the increase in malaoxon, the atmospheric half-life of malathion in Houston was estimated at <12 h, which was significantly shorter than previous half-life estimates (∼days). Importantly, malaoxon is estimated to be 22-33 times more toxic to humans than malathion. Both the aerosol size and the half-life are critical for mosquito control, human exposure, and risk assessment of these routine pesticides.