- Family poisoned by pesticide during March vacation in U.S. Virgin Islands
- Methyl bromide, a restricted-use pesticide, was used at their resort
(CNN)As two Delaware teens recovering from pesticide poisoning struggle to eat, walk and sit up on their own, an investigation into what went wrong highlights failures on several levels, including lax oversight and a history of corruption at the U.S. Virgin Islands government agency in charge of exterminators.
Methyl bromide is a restricted-use pesticide that the U.S. EPA has considered "highly toxic" for more than two decades. Inhalation of methyl bromide, even short-term, can cause severe lung damage, while long-term inhalation can lead to "neurological effects." Studies on lab animals caused degenerative lesions in the nasal cavity and had effects on the testicles of male animals.
What went wrong
Email your story ideas and tips to CNNtips@cnn.com.
A pattern of problems
The EPA has long known of the toxic effects of methyl bromide, and in 2005 banned it except for certain agricultural applications; before the ban took effect, there were several serious incidents involving Terminix.
- A Pennsylvania woman sued, alleging her 57-year-old son was killed after Terminix fumigated his Lancaster, Pennsylvania, apartment in April 2004. Court papers from the case show that Terminix said it lost the paperwork recording which chemicals were used. Terminix fought the case, saying his death was unrelated, that he had a pre-existing condition, and that no methyl bromide was used. The case settled in 2008.
- Also in 2006, Terminix pleaded guilty to a criminal assault charge after nine employees in New Jersey were overcome by methyl bromide fumes. The attorney general said Terminix was negligent for not giving the workers proper protective gear or training for removing tarps from stacks of cocoa bean pallets that had been fumigated. Terminix had to pay a $300,000 criminal fine, on top of a $80,000 civil fine.