Of the more than eight million species that inhabit the planet with humans, we seem to have the hardest time coexisting with insects. While many insects are beneficial, others destroy crops, damage property, spread disease, bite, or sting. When they infest households, many people turn to professional pest control services that use chemical pesticides to manage the problem. Pesticides are designed to be toxic to living things and include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. Unintended exposures to other organisms can occur because pesticide application is not always precise.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides, even in very low levels. Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects, asthma, allergies, cancer, hormone problems, and issues with reproduction and fetal development. In the United States, all pesticides must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires a battery of scientific tests not only for every pesticide, but for every use of every pesticide. The EPA also keeps a list of pesticides that have been severely restricted or banned outright, such as DDT, ethylene oxide, mercury, and vinyl chloride.
Depending on the type of pest you are dealing with, there may be some effective natural home remedies that will alleviate the problem. If you find you need a professional, ask:
- How are your technicians trained?
- Is your company bonded and insured?
- What is your policy on damage?
- What is your guarantee?
- What do your technicians do to ensure safety around children and pets?
- What do I need to do to prepare for service?
So, you can imagine the recent shock when a family on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands became critically ill after exposure to a severely restricted gas that was used in fumigating the villa below theirs. That’s right. Terminix, one of the largest pest control companies in the world (operating in 47 states and 11 countries) allegedly used methyl bromide, which has been banned in the U.S. for most indoor applications since 1984. Even short-term inhalation of methyl bromide can cause severe lung damage, while long-term inhalation can lead to serious neurological effects.
Terminix agreed to a plea deal of $10 million following an investigation that revealed that six weeks after the family fell ill, dangerous amounts of methyl bromide were still being detected inside the villa. Moreover, Terminix used the restricted-use pesticide across the islands on different occasions and it was found in the possession of other pest control companies. Workers who fumigate with methyl bromide are supposed to have special training, and they're supposed to file paperwork with the EPA detailing when they buy it and how they plan to apply it – all of which was allegedly lacking in this case. The concern now is that other vacationers may have been exposed to this deadly pesticide.
Closer to home, a Palm City, Florida family had trouble after calling Terminix to deal with a drywood termite problem. Terminix sent a subcontractor to fumigate who posted the re-occupancy notice without properly checking to see if the air was safe. Although the whole family became ill, everyone recovered except for a nine-year old boy. He suffered severe brain damage caused by exposure to sulfuryl fluoride, the pesticide used in the fumigation. The subcontractor was subsequently shut down by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Whether the equipment was faulty, the subcontractor was not properly trained, or the subcontractor was not properly supervised is a matter currently being decided in the courts. But the lesson remains the same – pesticides are invisible poisons that can cause permanent damage if not properly selected or applied.
If you have any questions about this topic, or if you believe that an improperly used or applied pesticide may be responsible for your injury or that of a loved one, talk to the personal injury attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, we have helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies for over 45 years. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us today by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.