August 3, 2016 — Terminix has been ordered to pay $87 million to a family that was severely poisoned by pesticides the company sprayed near their condo in the Virgin Islands.
Terminix exterminators sprayed an odorless neurotoxin called methyl bromide — the most powerful fumigant in the world — in a condo below the one where a family from Delaware stayed in March 2015.
It was applied during the day on March 19. By that night, the family was experiencing severe health problems.
Stephen Esmond became paralyzed. His two teenage sons had seizures and spent weeks in medically-induced comas. Due to neurological impairment, they still struggle to eat, walk, and talk.
His wife, Theresa Devine, was not seriously injured and now cares for her severely disabled family. The family filed a lawsuit accusing Terminix of negligence for knowingly using illegal pesticides.
The EPA banned methyl bromide for indoor residential use in 1984. Exposure can have both short-term and long-term effects, including severe lung injuries and brain damage.
The criminal case against Terminix is expected to be resolved with a $10 million settlement next month. Investigators say Terminix also used methyl bromide in condos on St. John and St. Croix. The EPA has also issued a pesticide warning in the Caribbean and is examining the use of methyl bromide in other locations.
The pesticide — also known as Meth-O-Gas Q — is rapidly absorbed into the body through the skin and lungs. It is also still used on crops like strawberries. In the past, it was also used as a flame retardant in fire extinguishers.
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