Pesticide That Almost Killed Family Was Used Indoors

Methyl bromide blamed for Virgin Islands poisoning
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2015 12:33 AM CDT
Pesticide That Almost Killed Family Was Used Indoors
A sign, required by law, warns of a pesticide application of methyl bromide on a field near Watsonville, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rita Beamish, file)

A Delaware family that became seriously ill in the US Virgin Islands was poisoned by an odorless and highly toxic pesticide that should never have been used indoors, according to Environmental Protection Agency investigators. Methyl bromide was used to fumigate a unit at the Sirenusa resort on St. John days before the family was hospitalized on March 20. It was also "used in other apartments around the same time that it was applied here, and also in different apartments in the complex within the past year," an EPA official tells NBC News. Weeks after they became ill, two teenage boys are still in critical condition after being airlifted to a hospital on the US mainland; their father is in stable condition.

"We have confirmed that the problem is indeed methyl bromide," which was banned from indoor use in the US—including the Virgin Islands—decades ago, an EPA official tells the AP, describing the gas as a "potent neurotoxin" that "can cause convulsions, coma, cognitive deficits, inflammation of the lungs." The Justice Department has begun an investigation and Terminix, the pest control company involved, says it is cooperating, CNN reports. "Many questions remain why an odorless pesticide of this level of toxicity could be manufactured, distributed, and applied in a residential area resulting in this family's injuries," the family's lawyer said in a statement. (More Virgin Islands stories.)

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