Terminix fined $10 million for its use of dangerous pesticide

gross_negligence.jpg
TODAY, March 30, 2016 | Chicago Tribune

A pest-control company has agreed to pay $10 million in penalties for using a dangerous pesticide at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort where a Delaware family fell critically ill, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Terminix International Company LP and its U.S. Virgin Islands operation agreed to plead guilty to four counts of violating federal pesticide law in a deal with prosecutors that still needs to be approved by a judge.

According to information filed Tuesday in federal court in the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands, the Wilmington family was staying at the Sirenusa resort in St. John last March when they were exposed to methyl bromide, which had been sprayed in an adjacent unit.

Stephen Esmond, an administrator at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, his wife, Theresa Devine, a dentist, and their two teenage sons, were hospitalized. The sons spent weeks in medically induced comas.

The family was blessed by Pope Francis at a brief meeting at Philadelphia International Airport as the pontiff was leaving the city following his weekend visit in September.

Methyl bromide can cause convulsions, coma, and cognitive deficits. The indoor use of products containing the chemical was banned by the federal government in 1984 and the remaining uses are highly restricted.

As part of the plea deal, Terminix agreed to make good faith efforts to cover medical expenses for the family through a separate civil proceeding. If the expenses are not resolved, prosecutors said they may reopen the sentencing proceedings.

The four criminal counts cover the illegal use of methyl bromide twice at the St. John resort, once in St. Croix, and once in St. Thomas.

“The facts in this case show the Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden.

ServiceMaster Global Holdings Inc., the parent company of Terminix, filed a notice Tuesday to investors about the plea agreement. Citing the judge’s pending decision on the plea deal, a company spokesman declined to comment.

ServiceMaster.png[ServiceMaster Global Holdings Inc. owns Terminix, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic, American Home Shield, AmeriSpec, ServiceMaster Clean and ServiceMaster Restore.]

The $10 million in penalties include $8 million in fines, $1 million in restitution for the government’s response and cleanup at the St. John resort, and $1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund training for pesticide applicators in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Wide Range of Diseases Linked to Pesticides

Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer 2010 | Pesticides and You | by Kagan Owens, Jay Feldman
and John Kepner

Beyond Agricultural Pesticide Exposure – Asthma, Autism, ADHD, ADD, Birth Defects, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Brain Cancer, Breast Cancer, Leukemia, Learning Disorders, Parkinson’s and on and …

While agriculture has traditionally been tied to pesticide-related illnesses, of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools, 28 can cause cancer, 14 are linked to endocrine disruption, 26 can adversely affect reproduction, 26 are nervous system poisons and 13
can cause birth defects. Of of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants. A number of published studies using animal toxicity data and human cells/tissue laboratory data also show that pesticides are linked to several major public health problems.

Epidemiology: The Challenge of Finding Patterns of Harm

Despite evidence to the contrary, chemical industry critics of epidemiologic studies linking pesticides to major diseases argue that they are of limited value because of their reliance on records and study participants’ memory, among other issues. In fact, the correlation
of patterns of chemical use with an effect is difficult to establish in epidemiology and therefore may underestimate hazard effects.  When a correlation is established it raises serious concern.  The epidemiologic studies in the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database show an overall pattern that links pesticide exposure to major diseases.

Endocrine Disruption

Common household products –detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides– contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. Known as endocrine disruptors, these
chemicals, which interact with the endocrine system, wreak havoc in humans and wildlife.
Endocrine System
The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline),
which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body. Endocrine disruptors function by: (i) Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) Blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors havebeen linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers.
More than 50 pesticide active ingredients have been identified as endocrine disruptors by the European Union and endocrine disruptor expert Theo Colborn, PhD. Endocrine disruption is the mechanism for several health effect endpoints.
To view this article in its entirety see Beyond Pesticides – Pesticides and You.
Database can be viewed here at Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Our Daily Poison: How Chemicals [Pesticides] Have Contaminated the Food Chain & Are Making Us Sick

Our Daily Poison.  A shocking documentary, written & directed by Marie-Monique Robin

February 24, 2016 | by Marie-Monique Robin | InTheseTimes.com

In a 1996 report entitled Pesticides and the Immune System: The Public Health Risks, which was commissioned by the prestigious World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, DC, Robert Repetto and Sanjay Baliga write: “The scientific evidence suggesting that many pesticides damage the immune system is impressive. Animal studies have found that pesticides alter the immune system’s normal structure, disturb immune responses, and reduce animals’ resistance to antigens and infectious agents. There is convincing direct and indirect evidence that these findings carry over to human populations exposed to pesticides.”

“That document sparked the chemical industry’s wrath,” explained Robert Repetto, an economist who specializes in sustainable development and who was vice president of the WRI when the report was written. “It was the first time a study had gathered all the available data on the effects of pesticides on the immune system, a subject that was completely underestimated at the time and, in my opinion, continues to be now, even though it is crucial to understanding the epidemic of cancer and autoimmune diseases that are observed, notably in industrialized countries.”

Indeed it is—and we will revisit this—as cancer is rarely caused by one factor alone; more often it is the result of a complex and multifactorial process, generally initiated by the action of pathogens (or of antigens), such as rays, viruses, bacteria, toxins, or chemical pollutants, and possibly favored by genetic predispositions, lifestyle, or diet. In good health, the body can defend itself against the aggression of pathogens by mobilizing its immune system, whose function is precisely to track and eliminate intruders using the action of three distinct, but complementary, mechanisms.

 

Entire story here.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

NYC Landlord Sues Tenant for Refusing to allow Chemicals into Apartment to treat bedbug infestation.

 The building at 2 Riverside Drive (center) had a bed bug infestation in mid-December and the landlord is suing a tenant for not complying with an extermination plan.

2 Riverside Dr. (center) ‘severe’ bedbug infestation

January 20, 2016 | by Emily Frost | DNAinfo New York

UPPER WEST SIDE — The owner of a Riverside Drive residential building is suing a renter for allegedly allowing a “severe” bedbug infestation to intensify by ignoring an exterminator’s instructions to treat the apartment after it was deemed the epicenter of the outbreak.

The landlord is suing tenant James Behan, who rents a second-floor studio apartment in 2 Riverside Drive at West 72nd Street, for more than $300,000 in damages and legal fees, according to the suit filed last week in state Supreme Court.

Behan made the infestation worse by refusing to comply with an exterminator’s demands and repeatedly re-infesting the apartment, which cost the landlord money and left the 24-unit building open to lawsuits that could be brought by other tenants, the suit said.

After hearing from several residents that there were bedbugs in their apartments, the landlord notified everyone in the building of the problem on Dec. 14, 2015, and said an exterminator would be coming two days later, the suit said.

An exterminator determined on Dec. 16 that five apartments had bedbugs and that Behan’s had the “worst infestation,” with the insects visible on the “baseboards, outlets, ceilings, and all over the furniture” of his apartment, according to the lawsuit.

Behan did not seal up infested clothing and personal items as instructed by the exterminator and was seen setting them aside in the hallway without any plastic bags to contain the critters, the suit said. He also refused to dispose of clothes and other personal property per the exterminator’s request, and did not allow the exterminator to use certain chemicals to rids his apartment of the infestation, the suit said.

Additionally, the landlord wanted the exterminator to treat Behan’s car after bugs were found there, but Behan refused to grant access to the vehicle, leading the landlord to believe the infestation spread again from his car back into the apartment, the suit noted.

The lawsuit alleges that Behan also regularly visited another location with an infestation and spread those bedbugs to his apartment. He also left his unit’s door open, the suit said.

Behan has “no valid justification” for not complying and he produced an “ongoing bedbug problem” in his apartment, as well as creating “unsafe” conditions for other tenants, who still have bedbug issues, the suit said.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees, the landlord is also seeking an injunction from the court to prevent Behan from interfering with extermination.

Behan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The attorney representing owner 2 Riverside Drive LLC did not respond to a request for comment.

#SayNOtoPesticides!

Over the river & through the woods – Traveling for the holidays?  Beware of these 5 BEDBUG Hotspots…

December 15, 2015 | Las Vegas Review Journal

Will you be heading to Grandma’s house this holiday season? Or taking a long-awaited vacation in a tropical location? Whether you’re driving over the river and through the woods or flying to a luxury hotel in a premier resort to ski for the week, it pays to take steps to ensure you don’t come home with some unwelcome travel companions — BEDBUGS! 

Check out these five BEDBUG hotspots to be aware of as you travel this holiday season and follow the tips for how you can avoid carrying them home with you…BEDBUGS do not discriminate – it doesn’t matter if your room is $500 per night!

1. Give them a mattress, any mattress! The presence of bed bugs has nothing to do with cleanliness or the quality of your accommodations. They’re as happy and as common in five-star hotels as they are in the guest room at Grandma’s house. As their name implies, bed bugs often frequent mattresses, so as soon as you arrive at your destination, pull back the bedsheets and inspect the mattress seams and box springs for signs of bed bugs. If you see telltale stains, spots or shed bed bug skins, alert hotel management or your host right away.

2. But anywhere is good, really. Bed bugs don’t just stick to the bed, they can infest an entire room. Before you unpack, sit your luggage in the bath tub or on a hard tile floor, and thoroughly inspect your room. Use a flashlight to look behind the headboard, under side tables and in sofas and chairs. Remove cushions from upholstered furniture and look for signs of pests.

3. Hey, nice bags!Bed bugs travel by hitching a ride, and your luggage makes the perfect luxury transport for them to accompany you on your journey home. Once you’ve unpacked, consider placing your suitcases in a plastic trash bag or protective cover for the duration of your stay. Place suitcases on the shelf in your hotel room closet. Inspect your luggage before you leave to go home.

4. They just want to be “clothes” to you. Your vacation wardrobe is also a great spot for bed bugs to hang out — and their eggs to stick around —and wait for their ride to their new home. During your stay, either place worn clothing in a sealed plastic bag or use the hotel’s laundry facilities to give clothes a hot blast through the dryer before packing them up to take home. Once you’re home, immediately run all clothes — even ones you didn’t wear — through a hot dryer for 30 minutes to take care of any bed bugs that did make it home.

5. They still like those bags.Although you took steps to protect your luggage while on your trip, it pays to give them one more good look when you get home. Unpack luggage outside the house and thoroughly inspect it before bringing it inside. Vacuum the inside of luggage before bringing it inside to be put away.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Planning Holiday Vacation – Beware of Pesticides Airbnb/Resorts – No Difference if you stay in Presidential Suite or Luxury Villa

Pesticide that poisoned Delaware family still being used

November 30, 2015 | by Dania Cogo, AP | SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

A criminal investigation into the March poisoning at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort continues and the Esmond family, of Wilmington, is in settlement talks with Terminix, the company that used the chemical on insects in a vacation rental adjacent to theirs. A separate investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local officials into the broader use of methyl bromide in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico also is still underway.

Officials have disclosed few details about what they’ve learned. But the federal government and the U.S. Virgin Islands recently held a conference for pesticide companies, resort operators and hospitality workers to warn them about the dangers of methyl bromide and other pesticides.

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.”

The Esmonds were vacationing in St. John at an $800-per-night resort when a worker sprayed methyl bromide in the condo below theirs, according to EPA officials.  Within days, the family was sick.

Eight months later, Dr. Theresa Devine is not dependent on a wheelchair, but her husband, Steve Esmond, former head of Tatnall’s Middle School, and their two teen sons, Sean and Ryan, suffered neurological damage and are paralyzed. The teens remain hospitalized at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.Enck said that methyl bromide “is one of many pesticides being used illegally and inappropriately in the Caribbean” and that more local oversight and regulation of pesticide companies is needed.

While methyl bromide is still used on the mainland U.S. for agricultural purposes, the EPA banned the chemical for residential use in 1984 and is phasing out its overall use.

Experts say some companies in the Caribbean still use methyl bromide because of lax governmental supervision and because it kills pests in just one application. That level of toxicity, though, has serious consequences on humans, causing headaches, dizziness, fainting and even paralysis and death.

A federal investigation after the Esmond family’s poisoning revealed that methyl bromide has been widely used in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth Mapp says. He said he learned the chemical had even been sprayed at his home and nearby residences in 2013 to treat a termite infestation. The territorial government has said it will regulate pest control companies more closely and require new permits for the sale and purchase of restricted-use pesticides.

Methyl bromide also has been used at hotels in Puerto Rico, officials say, but it is unknown if the island has taken any action. The territory’s Agriculture Department, which is responsible for monitoring pesticide companies, did not respond to questions on illegal uses of methyl bromide on the island.

Enck said even one illegal application is unacceptable.

“It should be zero,” she said. “The Puerto Rico Agriculture Department needs to stay vigilant. Even with the economic situation in Puerto Rico, they need more inspectors; they need to be educating the public.”

Repeated messages left with several pest control companies, including a Puerto Rico branch of Terminix, the Tennessee-based company whose applicator’s license was suspended in the U.S. Virgin Islands after the March incident, were not returned.

A couple of incidents involving toxic pesticides have been reported in the Dominican Republic, where at least one hospital alerted staff to the symptoms of pesticide poisoning following the 2013 deaths of two women and a cat.

Dr. Jose Yunen, who treated one of the victims, said he treated a couple for poisoning last February because he knew the symptoms from the 2013 case.

“There needs to be an alert for this like there is for Ebola and many other things,” he said.

Arsenic-laced soil lingers where children play in Washington state

BY Tony Schick and Courtney Flatt, EarthFix  November 4, 2015 at 4:33 PM EST