Terminix fined $10 million for its use of dangerous pesticide

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.


Sunland Pest Control (contracted by Terminix) fumigators hit with federal charges after poisoning of 10 year old Peyton McCaughey


10 year old Peyton McCaughey

January 19, 2016 | FOX News WFLX29

PALM CITY, Fla. – Sunland Pest Control, the company subcontracted by Terminix to fumigate the Palm City home of Peyton McCaughey in August, has been charged with two federal crimes.

The charging documents submitted by the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida list Sunland Pest Control, owner Grenale Williams and employee Canarie Deon Curry.

Count one is “Using a restricted use pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

The charging document says Sunland failed “to have two persons trained in the use of restricted use pesticides,” “to aerate the fumigated space” and to “conduct a required clearance” with an approved and properly calibrated detection device.”

Count two is “False Statement.” The charging document says during the investigation by Florida’s Department of Agriculture into the fumigation at the McCaughey home Sunland claimed the pesticide “Vikane was used, when in truth and in fact, a different restricted use pesticide, Zythor, was used.”

It also says Sunland claimed that all label requirements of the pesticide were followed when “as the defendant then and there well knew, the label requirements were not followed.”

Count one carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Count two carries a maximum of five years in prison.

The crimes Sunland Pest Control is charged with left Peyton McCaughey with “severe brain damage” according to his parents.


Some Say Florida is Behind The Times – story behind poisoning

McCaughey exclusive:  ‘We’re angry towards Terminix. Our son is the one who has to suffer’

November 19, 2015 | by Jared Werksma | WPTV 5

For the first time since their 10-year-old son Peyton was poisoned by pesticides, the McCaughey family is sharing their story. They sat down exclusively with the Contact 5 Investigators.

“This is a kid who played baseball, played hockey, was learning to surf and for the doctors to tell us, well, pretty much all of that is more than likely gone…” said Carl McCaughey.  He says it’s a new reality for him and his wife Lori and a new way of life for their son Peyton.

“Do you feel like he was cheated, like your family was cheated?” asked Contact 5 Investigator Jared Werksma.

“We don’t want to publicly criticize anybody or any company but yeah we’re angry towards Terminix,” said Lori.

“We’re mad and we’re hurt and our 10-year-old son is the one who has to suffer for it,” she added with tears in her eyes.

Florida’s Department of Health says Peyton is suffering the effects of sulfuryl flouride poisoning.

The toxic gas used hundreds of times a day in fumigations across Florida.

“From what we’ve been told, people have symptoms like we had, the nausea, not feeling well or they’ve died. Peyton seems to be in this in between,” said Lori.

It’s an ‘in between’ Peyton started to enter on August 17, 2015.  A date the McCaughey family will never forget.

“We got home about 7:30,” said Lori, just after their Palm City home was fumigated.

“There was a placard on the door telling us that any time after 4 was safe to come home,” Lori said. But within a couple of hours Peyton wasn’t feeling well, she added.

By 6 in the morning the following day, the whole family felt ill and Peyton had gone from bad to worse.

“Peyton started to say funny things that didn’t make sense. He said something like ‘mommy how are we going to help all those sick people again?’ Like out of nowhere and that’s when I said ‘Carl, we’ve gotta get out of here, something’s wrong,” said Lori.

The family rushed to a nearby urgent care facility.  Concerned about the possibility of poisoning, Carl says he called Terminix.

“(They) explained to me that there was no possible way that there was any gasses or anything, they had checked (the house),” said Carl.

The family says the urgent care doctor disagreed.

“He said, ‘No, your families been poisoned,'” said Lori.

“He called ahead to St. Mary’s. He said get in the car right now. Peyton may have a seizure on the way down but keep driving,” said Lori.

“Did it hit you at all at that point what was happening or how severe this might be?” Werksma asked.

“To me at that point I was like, ‘OK we’re on our way to Saint Mary’s, they’re going to make it all better,’ “ said Lori.

Unfortunately that was not the case. That evening Peyton started to show signs of the damage done to his brain.

“At that point his head would flop side to side, his tongue’s hanging out of his mouth,” Carl said.

“Uncontrollable movements in all four of his extremities for twelve hours at a time until he was so exhausted he would just sleep for two hours. Then, he’d wake up and it would just gradually start all over again. It was a nightmare,” said Carl.

Was Peyton scared when this was going on?” Werksma asked.

“He couldn’t talk well but he asked if he was going to die at one point,” said Lori.

Peyton spent nearly six weeks at three different hospitals. Lori and Carl refused to leave his side. Some of Peyton’s favorite players from the Miami Dolphins even stopped by to make his hospital stay a little brighter.

Peyton was finally able to return home on September 25.

“Explain to me a little bit about why Peyton isn’t here?” asked Werksma.

“Peyton just doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. He just wants to be a normal kid going about his normal business. This was not his choice, no one gave him a choice,” said Lori.

Unfortunately Peyton’s life has been anything but normal since returning home.

“From the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed he needs one of us there,” said Carl.

The family’s dining room is now the physical therapy room. It’s where his mom says he spends hours a day.

“He has his speech therapy. He has some exercises he does with his mouth and his tongue to regain some strength and he is talking a lot better. He has his occupational therapy to help him re-learn how to go to the bathroom by himself, dress himself, brush his hair, brush his teeth,” said Lori.

The McCaugheys say their son has taken every challenge in stride.

“Never once has he said, ‘Why me, why is this happening to me?’ He’s just pushing through it,” Carl said, with a proud look on his face.

“As far as he’s concerned, he’s fine,” said Lori “And he’s gonna be fine,” she continued.

“(Peyton) talks to all of his therapists and he says ‘When I’m all the way better we’re going to have a kickball game and I want you to be there’, and um,” Lori teared up in mid sentence, turned to her husband and said simply, “sorry.”

Peyton’s injuries may leave him with the need for life-long care, according to his parents. It’s part of the reason the McCaugheys are suing Terminix, its subcontractor Sunland Pest Control and the chemical manufacturer Ensystex.

The McCaugheys are hoping their story will help change pest control practices.



Florida Boy Was Poisoned by Pesticide (Terminix), State Investigators Say

A Florida boy who has been hospitalized since August and suffered brain damage after his home was fumigated was poisoned by pesticides, a state investigation concluded.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement Thursday that 10-year-old Peyton McCaughey’s sickness was a “pesticide-related illness and injury.” The boy’s Palm City home was fumigated on Aug. 14.

The report said Sunland Pest Control, which was subcontracted by Terminix, could not provide investigators with working gas meters when asked. The meters ensure that it is safe to reenter the home.

Attorney Bill Williams, who is representing the McCaughey family, told NBC News on Thursday that the family filed a lawsuit claiming that Terminix and Sunland failed to verify that the home was safe before permitting the family to go back.

According to the complaint, Peyton McCaughey “sustained a catastrophic brain injury,” after Terminix and Sunland “failed to properly make certain” the home was safe to enter. The lawsuit also alleges Sunland did not properly ventilate the home after chemicals used to kill the termites were used.

The family was allowed to reenter the house Aug. 16 and fell ill. Peyton had the most severe symptoms, including slurred speech and muscle contractions. He remains at a South Florida rehabilitation facility, Williams said.

A Terminix spokesperson said on Thursday its thoughts and prayers are with the family, however company policy prevents it from commenting on pending litigation. The company said Sunland was its subcontractor. Sunland Pest Control did not return a request for comment.

Aaron Keller, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture, said that the department suspended Sunland Pest Control’s license on Wednesday.

“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services executed a suspension order against Sunland Pest Control. We will continue to build our administrative case against Sunland Pest Control,” Aaron Keller, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture, said.

McCaughey’s uncle Ed Gribben spoke to NBC affiliate WPTV just before the results of the state investigation were released and said his nephew requires around the clock care.

“It’s hopeful and encouraging that he has made some improvement but he’s nowhere near the kid that he used to be,” Gribben said.

CNN Reports:  New details on family poisoned by pesticide (Terminix) — same chemical used on fruits and vegetables all across America 

Published on Sep 11, 2015

(CNN)As two Delaware teens recovering from pesticide poisoning struggle to eat, walk and sit up on their own, an investigation into what went wrong highlights failures on several levels, including lax oversight and a history of corruption at the U.S. Virgin Islands government agency in charge of exterminators.

The teens and their parents fell gravely ill and suffered seizures during a March vacation to St. John. The family was exposed to methyl bromide, a restricted-use pesticide. Recovery from their nerve damage has been slow and agonizing for the whole family, but it’s been the worst for the boys. The brothers were in medically induced comas for weeks. They are now conscious, family attorney James Maron said, but they are barely able to move.

Six months after the horrifying incident, their father, Steve Esmond, is slowly getting better as well, but suffers from severe tremors, struggles to speak and can’t turn the pages of a book, Maron said.

“Neurologically, it’s like being in a torture chamber,” Maron said.

Esmond and his boys are mentally “strong as an ox” and “100% cognizant,” but they are trapped in bodies badly damaged by the nerve agent, Maron said.

Prior to the incident, the boys were athletic stars at their schools. The older brother had big prospects playing lacrosse and was already touring colleges.

Their mother, Teresa Devine, had less exposure to the toxic gas than the rest of the family and has made the strongest recovery, but she spends her days and nights keeping vigil over her boys.

“They’re extreme fighters, and that’s why they’re hanging on,” Maron said.

The family was on vacation at the Sirenusa resort on St. John when two employees of the local Terminix fumigated the villa below theirs March 18 with methyl bromide, even though it is not approved for residential use. After the family became ill, the Environmental Protection Agency found traces of the lethal gas in their villa.

The exposure was so significant inside the treated unit that 6 weeks after the family fell ill, dangerous amounts of methyl bromide were still being detected inside the rental villa, according to EPA documents.

Methyl bromide is incredibly toxic to humans, said Dr. Reynold Panettieri Jr., the deputy director for the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology.

“I would say the prognosis, at best, is guarded,” said Panettieri, who has not personally treated the family. “As we know the victims have been off ventilators and they’ve been improved. But if that dose, even though it appeared to be acute, was over (a period of) hours, the damage to the nerves and to the brain itself may render it irreversibly damaged.”

Delaware boys in critical condition after resort illness, possibly from pesticide

Maron said Terminix has agreed to enter mediation, done by Ken Feinberg, who negotiated the settlements for the victims of the September 11 attacks. Mediation begins September 28.

New details are emerging about the incident that so drastically sickened the Esmonds. Six others on the islands had mild symptoms of methyl bromide exposure — headache, fatigue, cough and shortness of breath — after the botched March fumigation of the Sirenusa resort. Four of those were emergency workers who helped the Esmond family, according to the EPA.

CNN has also learned that the day the pesticide was applied, an exterminator tented and taped off the treated area of the resort villa with 6-millimeter plastic that the gas should not have been able to penetrate.

A source familiar with the investigation speculated that the plastic could have come loose, and the chemical perhaps traveled through the air-conditioning system. Even so, methyl bromide should not have been used on a residential building in the first place.

The pesticide manufacturer, Chemtura, told CNN that an odor is supposed to be added to methyl bromide before any use, much like the artificial odor added to natural gas so that people can detect it. But family attorney Maron said no odor was added in this instance. Terminix will not comment on that part of the investigation.

CNN previously reported that methyl bromide was used across the islands on different occasions by Terminix. Other pest control companies on the Virgin Islands were found in possession of methyl bromide and officials said they are checking records to see whether it was used improperly. Ken Mapp, the governor of the Virgin Islands, said it was.

“What these companies did or appear to have been doing is clearly a violation of the law, and they’ll be held accountable for it,” Mapp said. He said he learned his own complex was fumigated with methyl bromide in 2013.


Pope holds secret meeting with Delaware family who are still paralyzed six months after being POISONED by PESTICIDES on Caribbean vacation (Terminix)

  • Delaware family of four exposed to methyl bromide from pesticide that was sprayed at Sirenusa resort during March Virgin Islands vacation
  • Mother Teresa Devine has largely recovered, though husband Steve Esmond and their two sons have fared much worse from the exposure 
  • Doctors have said there is little hope for brother Sean, 16, and Ryan ,14, who are no longer in medically induced comas but can barely move
  • Pope Francis had unscheduled meeting with family right before he left the United State via Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday

Amid a busy schedule on his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis took time for a private meeting with a Delaware family who are still paralyzed six months after being poisoned by pesticide on Caribbean vacation.

Steve Esmond, 49, and Dr Theresa Devine, 48, and their two sons Sean, 16, and Ryan ,14, were exposed to the poisonous pesticide methyl bromide after it was sprayed below their Virgin Islands condo.

The parents are still enduring the effects of some of the results of the exposure in late March, but their boys have fared worse and are still barely able to move.

Pope Francis kissed and blessed the family right before departing America for Rome at Philadelphia International Airport.

Before leaving the US, Pope Francis met with a Delaware family of four that was paralyzed by exposure to the toxic chemical methyl bromide on St John in the Virgin Islands. Above, he celebrates Mass on Sunday

Before leaving the US, Pope Francis met with a Delaware family of four that was paralyzed by exposure to the toxic chemical methyl bromide on St John in the Virgin Islands. Above, he celebrates Mass on Sunday

Mother Dr Teresa Devine has cared for the members of her family, though doctors say there is little hope for recovery

Steve Esmond (left), 49, was found unconscious in their Sirenusa resort condominium while his wife Dr Teresa Devine (right), 48, and sons were having seizures due to exposure to the toxic chemical methyl bromide

The meeting was unannounced by confirmed by Brian Tierney, whose company dealt with media for the World Meeting of Families conference that brought the pope to the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Esmond family was rushed back to their home in Delaware after becoming dramatically ill because their St John’s condominium had attempted to deal with insects by spraying a pesticide from Terminix in the unit below theirs.

They suffered nerve damage, with father Steve being found unconscious while his wife and sons were having seizures.

Doctors say that the family members affected worst by the toxic chemicals will never fully recover.

Devine, a dentist, is now in good condition physically, and her husband, an administrator at the private Tatnall School in Wilmington, is slowly getting better but struggles to speak, CNN reported earlier this month.

Sean and Ryan, who were once known for their skill at lacrosse, are now out of medically-induced comas that lasted for weeks, but have not yet made the strides seen by their parents.

Brothers Sean (pictured), 16, and Ryan, 14, were once known for their skill at lacrosse but now are barely able to move because of nerve damageThe young men are now out of medically-induced comas that lasted for weeks, though doctors say there is little hope for their recovery

Brothers Sean (left), 16, and Ryan (right), 14, were once known for their skill at lacrosse but now are barely able to move because of nerve damage

The resort where the Esmonds stayed (pictured) is entering into mediation on Monday, which will be conducted by the lawyer who mediated for victims of 9/11

Their mother Teresa has cared for them, though they still can barely move, cannot eat and cannot walk alone.

‘Neurologically, it’s like being in a torture chamber,’ family lawyer James Maron said.

Methyl bromide is illegal in many countries because of concerns about ozone depletion as well as health effects, but the US allows it for agricultural and quarantine uses.

Those using methyl bromide are supposed to add an odor to it so that humans can be aware of the danger.

CNN’s report detailed a lack of training and empty sections of paperwork in the Esmond case, though the man who sprayed the pesticide would not have been taught how to spray methyl bromide because it is not supposed to be used in residences.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department have opened an investigation into use of the pesticide in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Terminix worker who applied the pesticide at the Esmond’s condo is on administrative leave.

Mediation between Terminix and the family begins Monday and will be done by Ken Feinberg, who mediated settlements for the victims of 9/11.

Pope Francis departed the US on Sunday after a trip to Washington, New York and Philadelphia that saw thousands of people line the streets to see him as he traveled between meetings with dignitaries and the needy

Pope Francis departed the US on Sunday after a trip to Washington, New York and Philadelphia that saw thousands of people line the streets to see him as he traveled between meetings with dignitaries and the needy.

Mark Bello, Esq. | October 1, 2015

Toxic Time Bombs – MRI Reveals Brain Damage (Terminix)

Although pesticides are intended to harm only the target – the pest – humans are being harmed by overuse, misuse, and even lawful use of these toxic chemicals.

Two days after their home was fumigated for termites, the family was told it was safe to go back inside. Within a few hours, the whole family began vomiting. While the parents and their 7-year-old daughter recovered, their son became worse. According to a family member, he had uncontrollable muscle spasms, impaired speech, and could not stand. Suspecting that he was poisoned by the termite treatment chemicals, the family rushed the child to a local hospital where he spent 10 days in the intensive care unit. An MRI revealed he has brain damage.

The child has since been transferred to another children’s hospital where he has a daily regimen of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Though there are pauses when he wants to speak, he is beginning to verbally communicate with words and short sentences. He is unable to stabilize his own body to sit or stand on his own, so the child needs 24/7 care as he is a fall risk. Although progressing slowly, the extent in which he will improve is still unknown. He could continue to improve over the next weeks, months, even years or today could be the extent of his recovery.

The State Department of Agriculture issued a “stop work order” against Sunland Pest Control from performing any fumigations while the investigation continues into what made the child sick. Sunland is the subcontractor of Terminix who conducted the fumigation at the family home.

The family has filed a lawsuit against because Terminix and Sunland Pest Control because Terminix has not responded to their questions about what happened. According to the lawsuit, a different chemical from what the family was told was used to fumigate the home. The suit also alleges that the subcontractor put too much of the chemical in the home and failed to ventilate the house before the family was told they could return.

This is not the first time (for) Terminix has faced accusations involving fumigation injuries; it is also not the first lawsuit. Earlier this year, a Delaware family vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands was hospitalized after they were exposed to the toxic chemical methyl bromide at their resort. The chemical was applied to a vacant unit directly beneath the family’s unit at the resort. The use of the pesticide, which can cause damage to the central nervous system and respiratory system, is banned for residential use in 1984. The EPA, Justice Department, and authorities in the Virgin Islands are investigating how and why banned methyl bromide was used by the Terminix at the resort.

All four family members were taken to a Philly hospital; two teen boys suffered seizures. A doctor said that all though a “meaningful recovery” is still possible for the teens, “the potential for meaningful survival and living independently is going to become less and less likely as time passes—it ultimately comes down to how much of the poison they breathed in, and for how long.”

The same week the Florida family filed their lawsuit, a 27-year-old woman from West Palm Beach filed a lawsuit against Terminix. She alleges that while working as a security guard for New Bay Club, she was sprayed by an insecticide being used to spray for ants in the attic. The woman said she experienced chemical burning from the insecticide which has left her in a wheelchair and unable to walk on her own. She also lost most feeling in her legs and suffers from neurological problems. The New Bay Club and BASF, the manufacturer of the pesticide are also named as defendants.

For years, pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to acute poisoning, cancer, neurological damage, birth defects, suppressed immune systems, lung damage, and dysfunction of the immune systems. Yet, these dangerous toxins are still used in our schools, parks, homes, and more. Children are more vulnerable to pesticide poisonings because they spend more time close to the ground or floor where pesticides are applied and their developing bodies may not break down some chemicals as effectively as adults. There is now considerable scientific evidence that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 12, and childhood exposure to some of the most common pesticides on the market may greatly impact the development of the central nervous system. Because they have not developed their immune systems, nervous systems, or detoxifying mechanisms completely, children are less capable of fighting the introduction of toxic pesticides into their systems.

According to the EPA, by their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm. So what is the solution? The first step is to determine if you really need a pesticide. Like humans, pests need food, water, and shelter to survive.

If you or someone you know becomes ill from pesticide exposure, call 9-1-1, seek medical help, or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Tell them that you may have been exposed to a pesticide and include as much information as possible about what happened. To report possible pesticide misuse, contact your County Agricultural Commissioner’s office.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.