The pest control company Terminix has agreed to pay $10 million to a family of 4 that was seriously sickened following a fumigation at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort.

Of the $10 million, $8 million will go towards fines, while another $1 million will go to pay restitution to the EPA. The remaining $1 million will fund a community service project in the Virgin Islands, according to federal authorities.

Stephen Esmond, Theresa Devine, and their two teenage sons became seriously ill in March 2015 when the unit below theirs was sprayed with methyl bromide by a local Terminix office while the Delaware family was vacationing on St. John.

Methyl bromide – a highly poisonous, odorless gas – was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for residential use in 1984. The toxic substance reportedly caused the family to suffer seizures and nerve damage. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the health effects of exposure to methyl bromide can include central nervous and respiratory systems damage. [1]

A lawyer representing the family, James Maron, told CNN in September that the 2 teenage boys were barely able to move months later, saying:

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

Maron said at the time that the boys’ father was slowly improving, but still suffered severe tremors, had great difficulty speaking, and struggled to turn the pages of a book. Their mother experienced the strongest recovery, having been exposed to less of the pesticide than the rest of the family.

methylbromide
Source: Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety

Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, of the DOJ’s environment and natural resources division, said in a statement:

“When misused, highly toxic pesticides can have catastrophic consequences, and that’s why those who are certified to apply them must do so responsibly and lawfully.”

Cruden added:

“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.” [2]

The DOJ stated that Terminix had agreed to stop using methyl bromide-containing pesticides in the U.S. and U.S. territories.

Terminix claims it has since made drastic changes to ensure a similar situation never occurs again, and has halted fumigation in the Virgin Islands. The company says it reinforces policies with employees, and speaks to technicians about the specific products they use and how they’re applied.

Only a few months after the Virgin Islands fiasco, the Terminix name was tarnished even further. In August 2015, then-10-year-old Peyton McCaughey suffered severe brain damage when his family contacted Terminix to rid their home of a termite infestation. The young boy lost 90% of his motor skills and ability to speak due to the chemical used during fumigation.

The McCaughey family responded by suing Sunland Pest Control, the company contracted by Terminix. In March 2016, the owner and an employee of Sunland pleaded guilty in Federal Court to improperly using sulfuryl fluoride, a restricted pesticide. The 2 men could face up to a year in prison each.

Sunland admitted in court that it failed to properly aerate the property or test the air afterwards. Furthermore, the company admitted it lied about what pesticide it was actually using and lied about the fumigation in question during an investigation with the EPA.

Peyton is still going through intense rehabilitation. [3]

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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