Suffolk County lab director nixes permethrin concerns

 Scott Campbell
Scott Campbell

At the September 6 meeting of the Deer & Tick committee, Scott Campbell, a committee member and director of the Suffolk Country Department of Health Services Anthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, dispelled concerns about permethrin from 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with the tickicide — leeching into groundwater and affecting drinking water.

The health department’s Office of Water Resources Drinking Water Bureau has tested approximately 19,480 samples since 1999. “None had permethrin,” Mr. Campbell said. Of wells tested, 1,147 were on Shelter Island.

Based on the results, he said there’s “good evidence to say permethrin use on Shelter Island is not affecting drinking water.”

But the effects of long-range use of permethrin is difficult to obtain, Mr. Campbell said, pointing out that one of the long-time users of 4-posters was in Texas where the person who led that effort retired and no one picked up the work.

Committee member Marc Wein has been encouraging the health department to test the two or three deer that were tagged and have been on the Island since permethrin use started. But Mr. Campbell said even if the department agreed, he wasn’t confident tests on so few deer would be very telling about the safety of venison.

While there are those who refuse to eat the meat after deer have been exposed to permethrin, it’s been available for many years in a freezer at the town Recycling Center where it is stocked by town-hired butchers. There have not been incidents of illness linked to the meat and an Internet search reveals no direct links, either.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have maintained the meat is safe as long as it comes from a deer that was otherwise healthy at the time of the kill.