The Baltimore Sun

Is spraying moths injurious to health?

The Sun's article about Maryland's decision to double the acreage being sprayed this year to kill gypsy moths failed to explain the full range of the dangers inherent in the insecticides being used ("Md. steps up killing of gypsy moths," May 10).

For example, Dimilin, one of two insecticides the state is using, has been banned by New Jersey for use in gypsy moth suppression for more than two decades because of the threat that it poses to non-targeted animal species, invertebrates and vertebrates alike.

Humans are among those threatened by Dimilin's toxicity; it's a known contributor to blue baby syndrome, and two of its breakdown products are considered possible carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Aerial spraying, which is the method Maryland is using, compounds the problem, as drifting caused by winds spreads Dimilin beyond the immediate target areas.

This drift, combined with water runoff, all but ensures that the insecticide will flow into our ailing Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management has not sprayed to control gypsy moths since the 1980s, in large measure out of concern that Dimilin killed lobsters - a note of caution blue crab-loving Marylanders should heed.

Finally, Steve Tilley, a Maryland Department of Agriculture entomologist, is quoted in The Sun's article as calling both Dimilin and Bt, the other pesticide that the state is using, "safe" - even as he cautions Marylanders to stay indoors during spraying because "the best idea is to reduce your exposure" to the insecticides.

Mr. Tilley should know that the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act precludes any insecticide from being called safe by pesticide manufacturers and pest control companies.

As the EPA has noted: "By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm. [They] can cause harm to humans, animals or the environment because they are designed to kill or [harm] ... living organisms."

Ruth Berlin, Annapolis

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Pesticide Network.

Thank you for drawing attention to the efforts by the state and Maryland's counties to suppress the voracious gypsy moth so that it cannot kill Maryland's valuable neighborhood and forest trees.

Credit for this effort belongs to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who found the funding to control the gypsy moth.

Because of last year's drought conditions, the state's gypsy moth population is rebounding, and dramatically increased funding was needed to control it.

Mr. O'Malley found state money and worked with our congressional delegation to obtain federal funding for the spraying.

He understands the value of the trees to our economy, quality of life and environment, and listened to the needs of residents all across the state who would be affected if the gypsy moth were left unchecked.

In addition, the governor has signed a bill that establishes a task force to study gypsy moth infestation statewide to see if there are ways to better plan for the suppression of this region's most damaging forest pest.

Earl F. Hance, Annapolis

The writer is a deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Vetoes would value traditional family

Will Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is Catholic, listen to the appeals of Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, as well as from the Catholic bishops, by vetoing bills that would grant unmarried couples legal standing to make certain medical decisions for one another and establish, in law, a definition of domestic partners that would give them a status equivalent to marriage in parts of tax law ("Catholic group urges veto of marriage bills," May 10)?

I join the archbishop in expressing grave concern over these pieces of legislation, which are an insult to the work of all faith communities that prepare young couples to remain in sustained, committed marriages and to maintain stable home environments for their families.

How can we help our communities in these efforts if our government explicitly recognizes and grants benefits to same-sex or co-habitating couples who can simply sign an affidavit announcing their relationship of mutual interdependence?

If signed into law, the measures would give a positive legal sanction to behavior that contradicts the understanding of marriage held by faith traditions and civil society since the beginning of civilization.

I pray that Mr. O'Malley will open his heart to the beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church concerning the sacredness of marriage and squelch this bad legislation.

Lorelei Maxwell, Towson

Gays not allowed more lasting bonds

One can always count on the Catholic Church and its political arm in the state, the Maryland Catholic Conference, to show their hypocrisy.

The MCC is urging Gov. Martin O'Malley to veto two bills that would offer at least some basic legal protections to gay and lesbian couples who enter into domestic partnerships.

According to The Sun's article "Catholic group urges veto of marriage bills" (May 10), the organization apparently believes that domestic partnerships are too easily formed and dissolved to be recognized by the state.

This suggests that gays and lesbians ought to enter the more permanent state of marriage instead.

But of course they can't - because the church opposed same-gender marriage during the same session that produced these bills as a compromise.

James R. Moody, Catonsville

Apples to oranges on transit ridership

The data The Sun published to back up the assertion that more folks are riding mass transit are meaningless ("Public transit grows popular," May 13).

The Sun compared July 2007 (peak vacation season) with March 2008.

To draw an accurate conclusion, one would have to compare ridership numbers for the same months in various years.

And the problem with the Baltimore area's public transit is that it rarely goes where most people want to go - unlike the Washington-area transit system, for which the state of Maryland pays a sizable chunk annually.

Steve D. Goldbloom, Randallstown

Owner responsible for dog's attack

I was very sad and upset to read about the Harford County horses attacked by a dog ("Dog attacks horses, fatally injures one," May 10).

What I found especially frustrating in reading this report is the fact that the dog involved was often seen running loose and that its owner had been cited and fined before - a very minimal amount - for not keeping the dog properly contained.

And even for this terrible incident he was fined less than $100.

There are responsibilities involved in owning any dog, and one of the most important of these is not allowing the dog to run loose - for the sake of the dog itself and of the others who could be affected, animal or human.

Our companion animals depend on us completely for their care. This involves not only providing them with the basic necessities but also ensuring that they are safely supervised.

In this case, and many others, the animals involved ultimately paid the price for human misconduct, while the system did very little to discourage irresponsible behavior by the one who was truly at fault - the dog's owner.

Bonnie Rachael Hurwitz, Baltimore

The writer is president of an animal rescue group.

Whites need to see other side of divide

Thank you for the "Blog Bites" column (Commentary, May 9) that displayed comments from African-Americans on the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. controversy.

It is striking to me that these writers, and many other African-Americans, fundamentally stand behind Pastor Wright even though they are not necessarily in agreement with him.

Yet many of these same people seem to want him to keep quiet and not speak out too aggressively for fear that he will hurt Sen. Barack Obama's chances of becoming president.

Meanwhile, it is largely white people, even some fairly progressive ones, who brand Pastor Wright a lunatic.

Maybe we white people need to make more of an effort to learn about the other side of our racial divide before pronouncing judgment.

Clearly, even if Mr. Obama does become president, our racial divide will remain a very serious issue.

A prophetic voice on behalf of the poor and outcasts is regularly regarded by the mainstream establishment as lunacy.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus are two examples of such voices who were not treated very well.

Unfortunately for Pastor Wright, his religious messages have been abducted into the realm of politics, where truth, justice and righteousness are subjected to the standards of political correctness and America's need to feel good about itself.

The Rev. Brian Adams, Lansdowne

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