An Archive of Jacob Appelbaum’s Post-Katrina weblog

Army alerts

Posted in algiers,Katrina,neworleans,photos by jacob on September 14, 2005

Driving around New Orleans

This is an Army truck that drives around the area alerting people to daily messages.

Yesterday the whistle sound (something like the legend of zelda according to Joel Johnson) played and alerted people to a message about a chemical air drop over the city. The Army stated that this would include low flying aircraft spraying chemicals to stop mosquito breeding. The times were about an hour before dusk and an hour before dawn. Do not be alarmed.

I can attest that the bugs here are terrible. I’ve been bitten on my left arm over 20 times. It’s a problem, no doubt about it. I wonder if the chemical will cause problems later on or if it’s totally safe?

When I asked Army officials what the spray was, they did not know. Does anyone know if this is DDT? What is this chemical being sprayed across an American city?

People replied to my questions here.


15 Responses to 'Army alerts'

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  1. zenji said,

    Yikes. I know that the HUMVEE you have pictured is more likely operated by people in the Psywarfare groups than the groups that are spraying (if those are even military planes…possibly not.)

    I have a good friend who used to be in Psywarfare, and he described it as taking care of bullhorns and PA systems to mount on vehicles and drive around cities with, delivery (mis-)information.

    I’d definitely try to stay in doors during and for awhile after the planes come by.

  2. Brandon said,

    I’m not sure what chemical is being used for mosquitos, but I did see on CNN where prominent pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, stated that the chemical is not harmful to humans. The transcript for the show is at:


  3. Matt said,

    They will most likely be spraying Naled, which they have been spraying around the country for mosquito abatement for decades. It is (most likely) safe. Here is the EPA fact sheet

  4. eRobin said,

    I don’t know what they’re using but I know that in my township they spray for mosquitos when the population threatens to be uncomfortable. We are constantly assured that the chem is safe and inhibits their breeding – or something like that. I never fully trust that information but I don’t stay up at night worrying either. I keep my kids inside when the spraying is happening.

  5. Sarah said,

    The chemical they spray is called BT or bacullis thuringensis. It’s completely safe for humans and only affects the digestive systems of certain bugs like mosquitos, flies, and some catepillars. It’s pretty widely used in most communities for mosqito, and gypsy moth control. You can even find it for sale at your local garden center.

  6. Chances are they’re spraying Malathion. That’s been used over populated areas in Los Angeles a few times. They recommend parking your cars under cover (because long exposure can damage paint) People are supposed to avoid exposure if possible, but it is not supposed to be harmful to people, but there is some scientific evidence to the contrary.

  7. red cedar said,

    in canada they spray malathion in places like winnipeg – i suspect ithis is what they are using – and malathion is linked to birth defects and other nasties when exposure is at high-enough concentration. do a google on it and you will see.

  8. Joe said,

    I previously worked with the New Orleans Mosquto Control Board as part of a CDC funded project. Naled is routinely used by mosquito control districts in Louisiana. Since the U.S. Air Force will be doing the spraying, I suppose one cannot assume that they will be spraying Naled as well although it should be a good bet.

    Curiously, the project I was working on was a rehearsal of an aerial spraying campaign in East New Orleans in the event of a mosquito-borne disease outbreak. We placed dishes of uniform size with a set number of mosquito larvae (Aedes albopictus – the Asian Tiger mosquito since this was the most feared vector at that time). There was virtually no impact whatsoever on the larvae. The best defense is what is called engineering control – the removal of breeding locations. I am not the least surprised that there has been an explosion of the mosquito population. There is no good reason to believe that mosquito larvae/eggs would be washed out by the hurricane though many believed (hoped) that would happen. On the contrary, mosquito larvae and eggs are exceptionally hardy and the foul and stagnant water conditions are perfect for many species of mosquito to thrive and there are still plenty of persons available for whom the pregnant females can feed upon.

    Also of note, some but not all arboviruses are transmitted ‘transovarially’ meaning that the egg laying female can transmit the virus to her eggs as opposed to malaria for example where the female must bite a person carrying the malaria parasite in their bloodstream.

  9. Stacia said,

    Why don’t you leave the city? I’d rather us not know the truth about what’s going on down there than see seemingly intelligent people like you die of West Nile or water contamination or whatever. Let the poor folks we’re so mad at Bush for forgetting about get the free supplies first. Please don’t be a martyr for the sake of some BoingBoing links and citizen journalism.

  10. jacob said,


    I brought all my own food, water, supplies, etc
    I’m not taking anything away by being here and it’s a worthy cause.

  11. Genie said,

    I don’t know what they’re spraying but on the news this morning they had a report from the EPA on the water they tested and it said , among other things, that there were pesticides. I assume they are the recently sprayed ones. The implication was that they were toxic. I would hope that they’re not adding to the already toxic soup tat was formerly water. By the way, thanks for your great photos and reports.

  12. smidget said,

    Others seem to have better guesses on what it is so I’m not going to take a shot, but I can assure you it isn’t DDT…that’s been banned in the US. Even if they assure you it’s harmless, I’d recommend staying indoors until the clouds of chemicals settle.

  13. Lynn Powers said,


    I was reading with fascination some of your posts on I have started a new web site that will serve as a clearing house for news, information, eyewitness accounts, and first hand stories about what is occurring in the New Orleans metropolitan area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is a nonprofit site is meant as an alternative source to mainstream news media that overlooked or refused to report on instances of violence, death, fear, and criminal activities.

    This is a unique and historical opportunity to record those personal stories of individuals who can give accurate and descriptive portrayals of events to the public that would otherwise be lost.

    I would like you to write about and expand upon your experiences in New Orleans. I would love to include any of your photographs, if you would give me permission. Please visit the web site at:

    You can email me at: or

    Thank you,

    Lynn Powers

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