Beware pesticides when you travel

(And of course at home as well.)

Recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic are still under investigation and more than one cause could be at fault. But they, like the recent hefty court judgments against the maker of the herbicide Roundup, are a warning that we can’t be too careful in checking out our surroundings for toxins.

From “Crisis Hits Dominican Republic Over Deaths of U.S. Tourists” by Simon Romero and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, New York Times, 6/23/19:

“Some of the earlier cases did seem to be consistent with organophosphate poisoning,” said Dana B. Barr, a professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Dr. Barr pointed to a case in the United States Virgin Islands in 2015, when a Delaware family of four was seriously injured after being exposed to a pesticide when the apartment below them was fumigated.

In poisoning cases, Dr. Barr said, the problem often stems from the pesticide not being properly contained. The chemicals could seep into a vent that is not adequately sealed, or be sucked inside by a hotel air conditioner///.

In the Virgin Islands case, “Jose Rivera, a Terminix International branch manager in St. Croix, knowingly used banned pesticides containing methyl bromide at several locations in the Virgin Islands, according to the Justice Department.” He was sentenced earlier this year to 12 months in prison and Terminix paid the family, which was sickened with various degrees of paralysis by the pesticide, $90,000,000 in damages–small comfort for the permanent horror they underwent.

According to the AP article later in 2015, the year of the poisoning, “Pesticide that poisoned Delaware family still in use” by Danico Coto in Delaware Online:

The EPA’s regional administrator, Judith Enck, said she and Puerto Rico’s Agriculture Department have found at least several other examples of prohibited chemicals being used at hotels. She recommends anyone staying at a hotel in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands ask if their room has been treated with pesticides and open windows to ventilate it when they arrive just to be safe.

“When you’re on vacation, the last thing you’re thinking about is if your hotel room or Airbnb (rental) is soaked in pesticide,” Enck said. “You’re at their mercy….”

Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, even in Chester County–where can people feel safe unless there is a whole new consciousness of the dangers of spreading toxins around where we live and breathe? And what individual, company or government agency would want to be using these substances when the stakes are as high as death or paralysis… and $90,000,000?

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