Four Children Die After Dilution Attempt of Pesticide Leads to Deadly Gas
Four children died this week after someone at their home sprayed water on a pesticide—aluminum phosphide—that was applied prior. The water caused a reaction that produced toxic phosphine gas, according officials in Amarillo, Texas.
At least five other people were hospitalized, wrote CNN. Fire Captain Larry Davis said that a family member used water in an attempt to wash away the pesticide that had been applied under a mobile home. Captain Davis said that the incident had been initially ruled an accidental poisoning.
Amarillo police representatives later explained that some of the family members began feeling sick Monday after the pesticide was sprayed under their mobile home. One of the residents tried to dilute the pesticide with water, not realizing the combination would lead to a lethal gas.
The Amarillo Police Department continues its investigation and plan to turn over its findings to the local district attorney’s office to determine if any criminal charges should be filed, Officer Jeb Hilton told CNN. So far, the event appears to be a case of accidental poisoning, Davis said, noting that the man who lives at the mobile home and applied the aluminum phosphide on the ground received the pesticide from a friend.
Ten people were inside the mobile home, Davis told CNN. Crews arrived just after 5:00 a.m. after a call was received that something was wrong and people at the home were ill. The first responders treated those who were ill for possible exposure. Sadly, four children, who ranged in age from seven to 17 died. One child died at the home and the other three children died at the hospital, according to CNN affiliate KVII. The first responders were also treated at the hospital for treatment for possible exposure to the gas and several were held for observation, KVII reported.
KVII also reported that the children’s mother is alive and in serious condition and the father is in stable condition in the intensive care unit (ICU). Four other children who were living in the mobile home are in stable condition in the ICU. The Amarillo Fire Department also reported that according to evidence, the residents at the mobile home were inhaling the gas for up to two days.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving alleged environmental hazards, including pesticides. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a pesticide injury lawsuit.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists aluminum phosphide in the Toxicity Category I, which is the highest and most toxic category. Specifically, the agency notes the “acute effects via the inhalation route.” Aluminum phosphide is used to kill insects and burrowing rodents and is often used in grain stores. When aluminum phosphide is combined with water it produces toxic phosphine gas, according to CNN. Toxic phosphine gas may cause excess fluid in the lungs and may lead to respiratory failure. The EPA also indicates that aluminum phosphide-based fumigants are restricted and must be used by “certified pesticide applicators … at least 15-feet from a residential structure,” according to RTT.com. The chemical compound comes in pellets, tablets, and dust, becoming phosphine gas when exposed to moisture. Exposure causes the lungs to stop functioning, which was the key factor in the deaths of the four children, police wrote in a press release.
One of the children was a high school senior preparing for graduation. The other three children were her brothers. A family friend described the 17-year-old daughter as a high school senior saying, “She was a quiet, simple girl, looking forward to graduation.” He described one son as wanting to be a priest. “He was a gentle soul, slow to anger, and quick to provide comfort.” Another brother was described as a comic. He was “So smart and so aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He was the first to laugh at himself and never met a stranger who wasn’t just a friend in the making.” The other son was described as “everyone’s friend.”
Pesticide Deaths Number in the Millions Each Year
According to CNN, about one to five million cases of pesticide poisoning occur annually, “resulting in several thousand fatalities among agricultural workers,” the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations indicated. “Most of these poisonings occur in the developing world where safe health standards can be inadequate or non-existent,” the FAO added.
Pesticide deaths also occur in developed countries. In fact, in 2015, an eight-month-old girl from Canada died after her mother used phosphine tablets as a pesticide in their home, CNN partner, CBC, reported.
The family of 10-year-old boy sued pest control company, Terminix, after doctors said that he was suffering from severe brain damage caused by exposure to sulfuryl fluoride, a pesticide used to fumigate his home. “His arms would fly around. They had to pad the bed. His head was going back and forth, non-stop,” his mother said.
In another case, Terminix agreed to pay $10 million for illegally using a pesticide that contained a toxic chemical in the United States Virgin Islands, federal officials said, according to CNN. The plea deal took one year after a family of four from Delaware who were vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands became seriously sickened when the unit below their villa was fumigated.
Pesticides are also very commonly used in suicides, especially in low-income, agricultural areas of the world, a World Health Organization (WHO) report indicated. “In attempted suicide, which is considerably more frequent than completed suicide, pesticide poisoning results in temporary or permanent disability,” the WHO noted.
The National Pesticide Information Center recommends that the directions on the pesticide label be exactly followed; pesticides be mixed outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, ensuring children and pets are not in the area where pesticides are mixed and applied; personal items be removed from the spray and mix area to avoid contamination; only what is immediately needed be mixed to ensure excess pesticide does not require storage or disposal; and a plan is made in the event of a pesticide spill. The National Pesticide Information Center also suggests keeping paper towels, sawdust or cat litter, garbage bags and non-absorbent gloves nearby for potential spill containment. “Avoid using excessive amounts of water, as this may only spread the pesticide and could be harmful to the environment,” the group also recommends.
Questions about Filing a Pesticide Lawsuit
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a lawsuit involving injury or death associated with pesticide exposure, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).