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Gases for the Masses: Why not study up on your moth spray facts BEFORE panicking?

Test Your Moth Spray IQ

Spraying for the light brown apple moth starts this weekend over Santa Cruz. Take our quiz and test your grip on the facts.

By Steve Hahn

With planes hired by the California Department of Food and Agriculture preparing to distribute the pheromones of the female light brown apple moth (LBAM) to the skies of Santa Cruz County Sunday night, the information campaign on both sides of the debate has reached a fever pitch. Half-truths, misunderstandings and downright paranoia abound, so how is one to measure one's true knowledge of LBAM and the pheromone sent to confuse it to death? The only way to measure things, of course: With a test. Now, eyes on your own paper, no talking, and No. 2 pencils only.

True/False section
1. The synthetic pheromone Checkmate LBAM-F is biodegradable. (True/False)
Answer (1): True, but slowly, over a 30-day period: Scientists say the inert ingredients surrounding the pheromone are degraded by UV radiation from the sun, force from wind, and oxygen. Preservatives are included in this polymer shell so that it breaks down slowly over a month. The chemicals replicating the pheromone itself, known as the active ingredients, break down "over one or two days." In 30 days all these chemicals will break down.

2. The EPA recommends "caution" when using Checkmate LBAM-F and classifies it as a Class III toxic pesticide. (True/False)
Answer (2): True. The EPA requires any chemical that has the end goal of destroying a species' population to be classified as a pesticide, so even though Checkmate LBAM-F does not kill the moth, it's called a pesticide It was placed in the lowest classification, Class III, which requires the manufacturer to suggest "caution" when using the product. CDFA officials say this labeling is intended mainly for appliers handling the concentrated (e.g., nondiluted) version.

3. There is no end date planned for the spraying. (True/False)
Answer (3): True. The CDFA has promised to aerially distribute the pheromone until all of the moths have stopped reproducing. This means moths that are currently larvae or eggs will have to become adults before they are sprayed again, and possibly again for the generation after that. Currently, CDFA estimates the end date will be some point in 2009, but this will depend on monitoring results from the sticky traps. Scientists familiar with Checkmate LBAM-F say spraying will not occur in winter because the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in these months and the moth is not active when it's that cold. During the rest of the year, they could spray as often as every 30 days depending on the numbers of moths collected from monitoring traps.

4. The LBAM pheromones will affect human hormones. (True/False)
Answer (4): False. Hormones are used to regulate internal bodily functions in humans, insects and other animals. Pheromones are emitted to attract other members of the same species. Hormones are internal; pheromones are external. And as for interspecies attraction—well, that's just sick.

5. The product has never been sprayed in an area as densely populated and with as much biological diversity as Santa Cruz County. (True/False)
Answer: True. Spraying in Australia and New Zealand took place mainly in mono-crop agricultural fields.

6. The organic farming community opposes the spraying of the pheromone. (True/False)
Answer: False. CCOF and the Alliance for Food and Farming have come out in support of it as a low-impact form of pest control.

Multiple Choice Section
1. Which statement(s) about the danger to human health of the chemicals found in Checkmate LBAM-F are true?
A) The product has been used in rural areas of Australia for more than 10 years with no proven health problems.
B) There have been no long-term scientific studies done on the effect of the product on human subjects.
C) Scientists estimate the small dosage, a majority of which is water, will mean there is almost no chance of a single human subject being overexposed.
D) All of the above.
Answer: D.

2. How much crop damage has the LBAM done in California?
A) $160 million
B) $640 million
C) Stop pandering to the agriculture lobby, you fascists!
D) None, but trade restrictions from Mexico and Canada have resulted in decreased trade for growers, and local nursery owners have had to buy and spray the nasty pesticide chlorpyrifos on their plants if they want to ship outside the quarantine zone.
Answer: D. CDFA and USDA worry that if the moth spreads to the rest of the country, U.S. growers will be in a state of "perpetual quarantine" with their North American trading partners. They also warn unregulated use of harsh chemical pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, could follow a full-blown nationwide infestation.

3.How many LBAMs have been confirmed in California?
A) More than 2 million
B) About 10,000
C) Fewer than 350
D) none
Answer: B. As of Oct. 24, 10, 445 specimens had been caught in sticky traps and confirmed as LBAMs. Almost 80 percent of those were found in southern Santa Cruz and northern Monterey counties.

4. Butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, one of the inert ingredients in Checkmate LBAM-F, exists in which of these products?
A) Dove soap
B) Oil of Olay moisturizer
C) Old Spice deodorant
D) All of the above
Answer: D. There have been no studies of the effects on human health, but scientists applied undiluted BHT to laboratory mice and found it increased their rates of cancer. The doses applied in that study were significantly more than is used in diluted form in cosmetics or in Checkmate LBAM-F. BHT has also been studied and approved in small doses by the FDA as a food additive.

5. The inert ingredient used in Checkmate LBAM-F to help distribute it aerially, polyvinyl alcohol, is also used in which of these products?
A) Cover Girl mascara
B) Eye drops
C) In construction as a joint compound (this means it's probably in your house!)
D) All of the above
Answer: D. Crazy, huh?

6. Sodium phosphate, an inert ingredient in Checkmate LBAM-F used to mix other inert chemicals with the water base, is found in which of these products?
A) Crest toothpaste
B) Anti-dandruff shampoo
C) Cascade dishwashing liquid
D) All of the above
Answer: D.

7. Where is urea, one of the inert ingredients in Checkmate LBAM-F, generally found?
A) Gas chambers
B) Saddam Hussein's chemical warfare stockpile
C) The human body
D) The boardroom of cynical pesticide manufacturers
Answer: C. Saddam Hussein no longer possesses a chemical warfare stockpile, silly.

8. Identify the pest management techniques that could be used in place of aerial application of Checkmate LBAM-F.
A) Establishing a vast network of pheromone-baited sticky traps that would surround known LBAM population centers
B) Placing pheromone distributors in trees surrounding LBAM population centers
C) Releasing sterile moths, similar to the technique used in battling the Mediterranean fruit fly infestation
D) Using trucks to distribute the pheromone more precisely from the ground, potentially decreasing its use in residential areas
E) All of the above
Answer: E. Aerial application is generally considered cheaper and quicker than these other options, except for releasing sterile moths. That technique still needs more research, according to state officials.

Fill in the Blank Section
1. CDFA will be distributing ___________ of Checkmate LBAM-F per acre.
A) 2.97 fluid ounces
B) 12 gallons
C) 1.34 cubic yards
D) A cloud of poisonous gas
Answer: A. 2.97 fluid ounces per acre, or approximately the same as distributing half of a Capri Sun juice pouch over an acre of land. Officials say most of the mixture is water.

2. Scientists recommend spraying before winter sets in because ________.
A) The moth has not fully established itself in California yet.
B) They want to do it before we discover their mind-control scheme.
C) The apple moth is not active when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
D) They would rather save money now instead of waiting for other techniques, such as sterile release, to be properly researched.
Answer: A and C.

3. Washing off outdoor surface areas, such as backyard tables or decks, is recommended by the CDFA following application because ________.
A) Otherwise you'll inhale dangerous toxins
B) They want to dodge liability suits
C) The residue will cause damage to your skin
D) They want to suggest all possible activities to reduce the risk for those concerned about human contact
Answer: B and D.

4. Following a spraying of Checkmate OLR-F in September and another spraying of Checkmate LBAM-F in late October, more than 100 Monterey County residents reported feeling _______.
A) Peachy
B) Respiratory irritation
C) A suspicious metallic taste in their mouths
D) Queasy
Answer: B, C and D.

5. The USDA reported in its July 2007 Revised Environmental Assessment that data derived from studies of pheromones with similar properties to Checkmate LBAM-F have shown spraying or runoff of pheromones can cause __________ to aquatic invertebrates.
A) Undetermined toxicity
B) Moderate to high toxicity
C) Death
D) No problem, you hippies
Answer: B. This determination led the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to negotiate a buffer zone around the waters where the planes will not spray.

Ding! Time is up. Set your pencils down and pass your papers forward. Class dismissed.

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