The recently released results of a Critical Insights poll show that over 80 percent of voters in Maine are concerned about the increased spread of insect-borne diseases like Lyme related to our changing climate. If folks haven’t been outdoors much recently and don’t own a dog, they may not yet have encountered the legions of ticks – those tiny brown messengers of global warming who spent the winter safe beneath the snow. The dramatic increase in the range and prevalence of these pests as the climate warms parallels the worrisome increases of Lyme disease recorded at the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

At my home in Falmouth, we have already experienced a “tick trifecta” – on one recent day my wife, a granddaughter and I simultaneously picked off “dog ticks” crawling on each of our necks or scalps. And last November after sitting on a brush pile during hunting season, I was horrified to pick off no fewer than 11 deer ticks (tinier, more dangerous but harder to spot) from my clothing.

In order to combat these worrisome creatures, the use of pesticides is increasing. But both the pest and the pesticide use are troubling. Both are linked to disease and illness. We should be mindful of the impact on our own health by the use of pesticides to protect us from ticks and mosquitoes. There are alternatives, and I am grateful for the thought and work on this problem in Falmouth and other towns. Bans are important steps and many do allow for the emergency use of pesticides.

There are many simple steps that are helpful, too – putting clothing in the dryer first (15 minutes on high heat kills ticks by literally drying them out), wearing long sleeves, removing standing water around the house and even using diatomaceous earth around the yard.

Jim Maier, M.D.


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