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Illegal Pesticide Use Blamed for Deadly Consequences


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When water is applied to aluminum phosphide, a restricted use pesticide often employed to help eradicate rodents, a chemical reaction produces a dangerous, potentially deadly gas known as phosphine.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Miller.


The application of a restricted pesticide by an unlicensed person appears to be the catalyst that led to the deaths of four siblings and the sickening of their four other siblings and their parents in Amarillo, Texas, on Jan. 2.

Local CBS-TV affiliate KFDA is reporting that hospital and fire officials suspect that aluminum phosphide pellets, a pesticide that is often used to get rid of gophers and mice and is restricted for sale to licensed professionals only, were placed beneath the children's home. Possibly spurred by the odors produced, a resident sprayed water on the pesticide, which created toxic phosphine gas that was then, officials speculate, inhaled by the victims.

Amarillo Fire Department lieutenant Josh Whitney was quoted as saying that the pesticide was somehow illegally obtained and that whoever was using it did not know enough about it to realize the potentially fatal consequences of mixing aluminum phosphide with moisture of any kind, even reportedly moisture in the air.

The mother of the family is said to be in critical condition. The father and his four surviving children were listed as stable on Monday. In a somewhat related story, earlier in December, the EPA released the news that they are finalizing stronger standards for professionals who apply restricted use pesticides that are not available for purchase by the general public, and require special handling.

"We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment, and protecting workers and their families," says Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely."

AFD's Whitney was quoted as advising to hire certified professionals when dealing with dangerous pesticides.










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November 24, 2017, 4:08 pm PST

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