• Vector control;
  • Mosquito;
  • Pesticide;
  • Aquatic toxicity;
  • NPDES permit


Pesticides are applied to state and local waterways in California to control insects such as mosquitoes, which are known to serve as a vector for West Nile Virus infection of humans. The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit to address the discharge to waters of the United States of pesticides resulting from adult and larval mosquito control. Because pesticides used in spray activities have the potential to cause toxicity to nontarget organisms in receiving waters, the current study was designed to determine whether toxicity testing provides additional, useful environmental risk information beyond chemical analysis in monitoring spray pesticide applications. Monitoring included a combination of aquatic toxicity tests and chemical analyses of receiving waters from agricultural, urban, and wetland habitats. The active ingredients monitored included the organophosphate pesticides malathion and naled, the pyrethroid pesticides etofenprox, permethrin, and sumithrin, pyrethrins, and piperonyl butoxide (PBO). Approximately 15% of the postapplication water samples were significantly toxic. Toxicity of half of these samples was attributed to the naled breakdown product dichlorvos. Toxicity of 2 other water samples likely occurred when PBO synergized the effects of pyrethroid pesticides that were likely present in the receiving system. Four of 43 postapplication sediment samples were significantly more toxic than their corresponding pre-application samples, but none of the observed toxicity was attributed to the application events. These results indicate that many of the spray pesticides used for adult mosquito control do not pose significant acute toxicity risk to invertebrates in receiving systems. In the case of naled in water, analysis of only the active ingredient underestimated potential impacts to the receiving system, because toxicity was attributed to the breakdown product, dichlorvos. Toxicity testing can provide useful risk information about unidentified, unmeasured toxicants or mixtures of toxicants. In this case, toxicity testing provided information that could lead to the inclusion of dichlorvos monitoring as a permit requirement. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2014;10:449–455. © 2014 SETAC