Texas Pesticide Deaths

Exposure Leads to Four Texas Pesticide Deaths

A terrible tragedy last week in Amarillo when four Texas pesticide deaths occurred and Amarillo Police are suggesting that the culprit may have been the chemical reaction caused by mixing pesticide with water when someone in the family tried to wash it away. The dead were four children in the Balderas family, ranging in age from 7 to 17. In addition, five other family members were hospitalized.

According to Amarillo Police, the tragedy may have happened after a family member sprayed aluminium phosphide, known by the trade name Weevil-cide, under the property in a bid to kill bugs. Apparently, that caused some family members to become ill, so the family’s father, Peter, attempted to wash the pesticide away or dilute it with water. Unfortunately, the water may have combined with the pesticide to create potentially fatal phosphine fumes, which accumulated inside the home.

In their report, the Amarillo Fire Department characterized Weevil-Cide as being an extremely strong, potentially lethal chemical. It can result in pulmonary edema, where the lungs fill with fluid. While they have not determined the exact cause of death, that is one of the known symptoms from exposure to the chemical. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chemical is listed in the strongest category of pesticides, or “Toxicity Category I.” The chemical cannot be purchased over the counter, primarily because it is so toxic when mixed with water.

Amarillo Police continue to investigate and could very well charge someone with a crime, although they are currently treating this as an accidental poisoning. So far, it seems as if someone in the family got the pesticide from a friend and applied the aluminum phosphide on the ground himself. The chemical is usually used to kill insects and rodents, particularly in grain stores.

Every year, there are between 1 million to 5 million cases worldwide in which agricultural workers are believed to be victims of pesticide poisoning, although most cases are never reported. While most cases occur in developing countries, where health and safety standards are either inadequate or non-existent, occasionally these tragedies also occur in developed countries.

For example, about a year ago, an 8-month-old girl in Fort MacMurray, Canada, died after her mother placed phosphine tablets around her crib to ward off bedbugs. A few years ago, the family of a 10-year-old in Florida sued Terminix after their son reportedly suffered severe brain damage from his exposure to a pesticide, sulfuryl fluoride, that the company used to fumigate the home. And in a separate case, the pest control company settled a case for $10 million for their illegal use of a pesticide in the villa below theirs in the US Virgin Islands.

This is a horrible tragedy that will affect this family for many years to come. It remains to be seen why this happened, but it is possible that someone may have been negligent somewhere along the line. For example, who gave them the chemicals and were they properly labeled with the necessary precautions? Did someone with experience give the family member instructions on spraying and fail to adequately warn them of the dangers of using these chemicals and mixing them with water? In some cases, a pest control professional uses these chemicals and fails to warn the customer as to the dangers of adding water. If you or a loved one have become ill after your home or business was sprayed with chemical pesticides, please see a doctor immediately and then contact the Texas Chemical Contamination lawyers at the Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can investigate and identify those who may have been negligent and hold them responsible.

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