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Malathion foes to meet with official


Opponents of malathion spraying to kill mosquitoes will plead their case tomorrow to state Secretary of Agriculture Lewis R. Riley.

"We want the spraying to stop," said Ruth Berlin, an Annapolis psychotherapist who has been diagnosed with permanent health problems attributed to malathion.

Ideally, she said, she would like spraying of the pesticide halted throughout Maryland, but "of course, one county, Anne Arundel County, would be nice."

That is not likely to happen, said Department of Agriculture spokesman Harold H. Kanarek.

A small group concerned about malathion spraying will meet with Mr. Riley and other agriculture officials involved with mosquito control. "He wants to listen and explain the program," Mr. Kanarek said.

Del. Marsha G. Perry, a member of the House Environmental Matters Committee and a proponent of local rather than state control over some pesticide restrictions, will be one of those meeting with Mr. Riley.

"It doesn't sound to me like the welcome mat is way out. But the door is open," the Crofton Democrat said.

Ms. Perry said she needs more information about possible hazards of malathion and the spraying program before taking a position on whether it should be used locally. Risks as well as benefits of any pesticide, including malathion, should be weighed, she said.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene may also send a representative to the meeting, said spokesman Michael Golden, though the agency has no direct involvement with pesticide regulation.

The state Department of Agriculture has mosquito-control programs in all cities and counties except Garrett County. Last summer it spent $1.8 million to control the 53 kinds of mosquitoes in Maryland and went through 7,900 gallons of malathion, Mr. Kanarek said.

A coalition opposing malathion spraying started to form two weeks ago after Ms. Berlin organized a meeting in Annapolis against spraying the pesticide. About 50 people attended, and most signed a letter to the Anne Arundel County Council asking that county officials end their spraying agreement with the state.

"We are in a very peculiar situation here in Maryland, particularly in Anne Arundel County. We have the bay, the coastline -- that's more than 400 miles of coastline -- and wetlands and all," Ms. Perry said.

The county and Annapolis will pay the Agriculture Department up to $52,000 this year for mosquito control. The state matches the sum.

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