A Delaware family became gravely ill during a routine vacation to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Island. During their stay at the Siren USA resort, the family was exposed to the pesticide methyl bromide. The exposure caused the family to suffer severe nerve damage, forcing some into medically induced comas for weeks in order to recover. Although now conscious, the two brothers are barely able to move, and struggle with eating, walking, or even sitting up on their own. The boys’ father, while recovering, also suffers from tremors and has difficulty speaking and with his motor skills.
Methyl bromide is extremely toxic to human beings and is as a result highly restricted. In fact, the only legal use for the pesticide is for agricultural purposes. Further, while the pesticide manufacturer, Chemtura, has stated that methyl bromide is required to have an odor added in order for it to be detected, the family states that they smelled no gas and that odor was not added in this case. The Environmental Protection Agency has speculated that the gas may have traveled through the hotel’s air conditioning unit when exterminators applied the pesticide during a fumigation of the resort.
The application of methyl bromide requires that those workers handling the pesticide have special training and are further required to file paperwork with the EPA, detailing their use of the pesticide as well as each time it is purchased. According to the family’s attorney, those relevant portions of the EPA documents in this case were left blank.
The story represents a pattern of problems with regard to lax oversight by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, a local environmental agency regulated by the EPA. In 2014, the EPA deemed the agency to be at high risk and that it did not meet management standards. Additionally, approximately $100,000 in funding the agency received to train local pest control workers did not go to any such training. Pesticide applicators are required to be retrained every year to maintain their certification. Because there were no such classes available on the island, these workers were being re-certified without ever having been retrained.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result to exposure to toxic pesticides or other chemicals, please call our office for a free consultation. 212-668-8400