Lax Government Oversight behind Use of Deadly Banned Pesticide in U.S. Territories

Tuesday, December 01, 2015
(photo: Dujardin Design)

A deadly pesticide banned from use in American homes since the 1980s is still being employed in U.S. territories, causing serious illnesses to those exposed to it.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of methyl bromide in U.S. homes in 1984. It is still used on American farms and, the Associated Press reported, throughout the Caribbean, including illegally in U.S. territories, in residences and hotels and resorts. 


The continued use of the pesticide gained attention after a family from Wilmington, Delaware, nearly died from exposure to methyl bromide on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands nine months ago. Two of the family’s boys are still hospitalized in Delaware, suffering from neurological damage and paralysis. The father is also paralyzed.


Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator, told the AP 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. Officials say the pesticide is used because it can kill insects in one application. To do that, however, methyl bromide must be applied in levels that cause headaches, dizziness, fainting and even paralysis and death in humans.


Not even the governor of the Virgin Islands is immune. Kenneth Mapp said the chemical was used in his home and other buildings in 2013 to cure a termite infestation. The chemical has also been used at hotels in Puerto Rico.


Federal officials are becoming more aggressive about spreading the word about illegal use of methyl bromide. A conference was held recently for pesticide companies, resort operators and hospitality workers to warn them of the pesticide’s dangers.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Use of Banned Pesticide Not Isolated Event in U.S. Territories (by Danica Coto, Associated Press)

Family of Four were Poisoned by Illegal Pesticide on Caribbean Vacation Leaving Two Sons in Critical Condition as US Authorities Confirm Criminal Investigation Opened (by Anneta Konstantinides, Daily Mail)

Strawberry Fields—and Pesticides—Forever (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Toxic Pesticides Banned in Other Countries Continue to be used in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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