There is currently little evidence to show that malathion, a pesticide used to combat mosquito populations in the New York City area last year, poses any cancer threat to humans, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, studies on the health effects of malathion and other pesticides "are being reviewed," EPA said.
The agency is seeking public comment for the next 60 days on its preliminary risk assessment.
EPA will review all comments received and then publish a revised risk assessment this Fall.
An outbreak of West Nile virus that killed seven New Yorkers last year prompted local health officials to mount an aerial malathion-spraying campaign aimed at killing the mosquitoes that spread the virus.
Malathion has also been used extensively in Florida to combat medfly infestations that threaten the state''s citrus crop.
Residents in both states complained of respiratory and other symptoms they believed to be associated with the spray program, and other public health advocates have also voiced concerns over malathion''s potential as a carcinogen.
However, in an EPA report released last week, agency officials said "there is insufficient scientific evidence to assess the potential for (malathion''s) causing cancer in humans."
"When malathion is used according to label directions, analyses shows very low potential for human exposure," EPA''s statement reads, "and therefore cancer risk from malathion is not of concern."
Copies of the latest EPA assessment of the health effects of malathion can be found at the agency''s Web site at www.epa.gov/ pesticides/op/malathion.htm.
by Virginia Sutcliffe