Tag Archive | "Department of Health"

Community Board Member Requests Stronger Communications from DOHMH

Community Board 2 member Roland Lopez in front of his home in Longwood Historic District. Tate Hewitt for The Bronx Ink.

At the Bronx Community Board 2 meeting last month, Roland Lopez stood up to complain about lack of notice for pesticide spraying by the Department of Health in his neighborhood, Longwood’s historic district. Lopez, who is the board’s environmental chair, claimed that the DOHMH is not doing an adequate job notifying the public.

They’re not doing their job, Lopez said of the DOHMH, “none at all, no emails, nothing.”

Now, he was experiencing eye irritation due to pesticide exposure. He had scheduled a doctor’s appointment the next day. 

While local law and internal DOHMH policy require several types of notice, it’s not clear how closely these rules are followed. Lopez said he believes the current notice is not effective, and would like the Department of Health to improve its methods of communication to residents.

“They don’t do a good job announcing this,”  Lopez said of DOHMH notification procedures, “They don’t give a damn.”

The city periodically sprays pesticides in neighborhoods as a measure to control and prevent the spread of West Nile virus, “the leading cause of mosquito borne-disease” in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. By keeping mosquito numbers down, the DOHMH can prevent transmission to the public. The department currently uses four pesticides to manage adult mosquito populations: Anvil 10+10, Duet, Deltaguard, and Merus 3.0. 

On September 21st in Longwood they were spraying Duet.

The department’s website states that the pesticides “pose no significant health risks to people or their pets,” but it also encourages people who are sensitive to pesticide to stay inside, seal off their air conditioners, and to wash skin, clothing, and produce that have been exposed.

The DOHMH policy is to notify residents when it is spraying. In this case, a department spokesperson said 4,000 fliers were posted in Lopez’s zip code (10455) and a neighboring area that was also sprayed (10459).

DOHMH public notice flier found at the corner of Southern Boulevard and Freeman Street in zip code 10459.

Lopez says he only saw one flier, and he didn’t notice it until after pesticide was applied in his neighborhood. He found out when it was announced on a truck loudspeaker minutes before his block was sprayed.  Lopez, who is 80, had to run inside to shut his windows.

“We have health problems, we are compromised with asthma. They wouldn’t do this in Riverdale,” said Lopez as he drove me around the neighboring community of Hunt’s Point, pointing out the heavy truck traffic that has been linked to high rates of asthma in the area, 

“There’s a tale of two cities.” He knows the neighborhood well, since he grew up in Longwood, and has lived there on and off for his entire life. For over 20 years, he worked in the neighborhood as a NYPD detective. 

According to their WNV plan for 2022, DOHMH procedure is to notify the public through the media, fliers posted in public places, and by notifying public-facing entities like hospitals, schools, and community boards. 

At the CB2 full board meeting, Chair Roberto Crespo acknowledged that the community board was also blindsided and that they’ve requested the DOHMH to attend the next health committee meeting to talk about improving communication.

In addition to fliers, the DOHMH posted a September 16th press release on their website, as well as a twitter post.

Local law 37 stipulates that any city agency applying these pesticides must notify the public at least 24 hours ahead of time. This notice must provide information about the pesticides being used, including EPA registration numbers, active ingredients, and numbers for the National Pesticides Telecommunications Network or the New York State Department of Health Center for Environmental Health Info line. This information was absent on both paper fliers and on notices posted online, but did appear in notices that ran in two newspapers – El Diario NY and the New York Daily News. 

The newspapers’ notices are for the entire city that cover a general timeframe of April 2022 to March 31st, 2023, and the large list of possible pesticides that might be used. 

The neighborhoods that are sprayed with pesticide are determined by the amount of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus, a number tracked by the health department. Although there have been no infected mosquitoes detected in zip code 10455 recorded this year, they have been detected in 3 of 5 surrounding zip codes: 10456 (6 times), 10474 (8 times), and 10459 (7 times).

According to 311 data; for zip code 10455, there have only been two complaints of standing water in their neighborhood, the environment in which mosquitos breed. The same data shows that there have been no reported complaints of mosquito swarms in the neighborhood.

Transmission to humans has been low this year despite high numbers of infected mosquitos. There has only been a single Bronx case of West Nile in 2022. There have been forty cases citywide.

Lopez is less worried about West Nile virus than he is about the cumulative effects of all of the pollutants in his neighborhood, among them pesticides.

“This just exacerbates everything that’s negative here.” 

As Lopez drove me around his neighborhood, tears rolled out from under his sunglasses from the eye irritation. His doctor had prescribed eye-drops.

“Our complaints fall on deaf ears,” Lopez said.

“I don’t know what to do…maybe civil disobedience”

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Advocates stomping out South Bronx cigarette ads

"Power walls," where cigarettes products and ads dominate the area behind cash registers, are common in Highbridge. (RANI MOLLA/The Bronx Ink)

A day before Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced record lows for smoking in New York City on Sept. 15, Bronx anti-smoking advocates were on the ground in Highbridge, still trying to put out a habit that has persisted despite citywide measures to curb it.

Coordinators from the American Lung Association and Healthy Highbridge are part of a campaign to stop point-of-sale smoking advertisements—the cigarette ads that plaster the insides and outsides of stores, as well as the “power wall” of cigarettes and advertisements directly behind the cash registers.

“They can’t advertise anymore on TV, billboards, clothing—this is the last arena for them to advertise,” said Spitzner, as she walked from bodega to bodega with Rios on Ogden Avenue, photographing what they said are new tobacco advertisements. “That’s where they dump all their money.” Rios, who was part of the Bronx Smoke-Free coalition that advocated to make New York City parks smoke-free earlier this year, said that the concentration of point-of-sale tobacco advertising has gotten worse in recent years.

Although the percentage of smokers citywide has plummeted (from 17.5 percent in 2007 to 14 percent, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), current smoking rates in the South Bronx are the same as 2007. In the South Bronx, 19 percent of the adult population and 5.2 percent of 14 to 18-year-olds smoke, compared to 17.8 percent for adults and 5 percent for children in 2007, according to the Department of Health spokeswoman Kari Auer. The South Bronx has the second highest percentage of smokers in the city, right after Staten Island. Spitzner and Rios believe that if they can curb point-of-sale advertisements, they can decrease smoking, particularly among young people.

The two were staking out Highbridge Wednesday for a “walking tour” for local politicians next month. Their hope is that after politicians see the saturation of tobacco advertisements in Highbridge, they will enact legislation to curb point-of-sale advertising.

Anti-smoking activists Juan Rios and Lisa Spitzner stake out Highbridge businesses that advertise cigarettes. (RANI MOLLA/ The Bronx Ink)

A majority of signs that blanket most bodegas in the area are for tobacco products. Many of those signs—particularly those for Newport—appear to be very new.

“Menthol advertisements target African Americans and young people,” said Rios, citing the large percentage of blacks who smoke menthol cigarettes. According to a 2005 Harvard study, advertisements for menthol cigarettes are more heavily marketed in areas with large minority populations.

According to the district profile for Community Board 4, of which Highbridge is a part, nearly half of the area’s residents are black and a third are under 18.

“We’re trying to educate kids, lawmakers, parents and teachers of tobacco’s practice of targeting youth,” said Sheelah Feinberg, director of the New York City Coalition For a Smoke-Free City.

Feinberg said that 90 percent of adult smokers started when they were teens, an age group that is particularly susceptible to advertisements.

“When you’re a young kid and you go to the store to buy gum or water, when you go to make that purchase, you’re bombarded by ads,” Feinberg said, pointing out that many of the power wall advertisements are located at kids’ eye-level.

“For us, the big concern is that the tobacco industry is always going after the next generation,” she said.

Rios believes that unless lawmakers halt point-of-sale advertisements, young people will continue to be vulnerable to ads because vendors will continue to put them up. Vendors receive discounts on their cigarettes depending on the prominence of their stores’ advertisements, according to Rios.

After multiple calls, voice mails and emails to local and national representatives at Lorillard Tobacco Company, which produces menthol Newport cigarettes, no one at the company would comment.

The effectiveness of smoking advertising is difficult to measure since it would require exposing a large number of people to long-term cigarette advertising.  Tobacco companies usually contend that advertisement is not to attract new smokers but to broaden market share for a certain brand.

The Bronx Ink interviewed several vendors whose buildings featured advertisements. All said they receive a discount on their cigarettes for placing the cigarette advertisements inside and outside their stores.

Jin Kim, manager of K.J.Y. Fruit on Gerard Avenue and 161st Street, said the decision to put up ads is about money.

“This is a business,” Kim said. “We sell cigarettes to make money. I don’t like that, but it’s a business.”

A cashier at the nearby Nadal 3 Deli said he’d be fine with giving up the advertisements. “It’s all good so New Yorkers stop smoking,” he said, adding that those who already smoke will continue to come in with or without the advertisement.


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