True Tales: Pesticide Scares

October, 2015

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In advance of the year's scariest day, Halloween, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation has compiled a short list of pesticide-related scares.

Unfortunately these are not fairy tales, but real examples. They include unnecessary sicknesses, hospitalizations, and brushes with death.

The names have been withheld to protect people's identities.

Graphic of a tombstone

A painful lesson

In June, the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner's Office received a report from California Poison Control about a homeowner hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns.

The man was injured by an herbicide he applied to control weeds on his lawn.

Investigators determined he had purchased a concentrated herbicide for weeds and grass at a hardware store and then transferred it from its original container into another, empty herbicide bottle. The latter had contained a diluted "ready to use" glyphosate herbicide.

During application, the concentrated herbicide leaked onto the man's ungloved hands. The next day, he noticed blistering on his hands and, days later, went to an urgent care center where he was treated with antibiotics.

The man's symptoms worsened and he was referred by the clinic to a dermatologist.

Finally, a week after he spilled it on his hands, he went to a hospital burn center and was immediately admitted. He underwent three surgeries to reconstruct his hands with skin grafts from his legs. He was released from the hospital two weeks later.

The San Diego Ag Commissioner's investigation determined the homeowner did not wear personal protective equipment required by the herbicide's label. He also failed to use a measuring device when mixing the herbicide.

Take away: Follow label instructions for any pesticide and don't transfer to a container with the wrong application instructions on it.

Dangerous drink

In August 2014, a 55-year-old man mistakenly ingested two ounces of chlorpyrifos, an insecticide, thinking it was water.

The Contra Costa County Agricultural Commissioner's Office investigated and learned the farm-machinery mechanic, had taken it from his workplace and put it in a drinking container in his lunch pail. He intended to use it to treat a tree at his home. He ended up being so sick that he had to miss three days of work.

Since the mechanic worked in San Joaquin County, the San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner's Office followed up. They determined the pesticides were stored properly and locked up at the business. Itís not clear if he had permission to take the pesticide from his workplace.

Moral of the story: Don't store pesticides in food or drink containers, or vice versa. It is illegal, it is not smart and it is dangerous.

Miserable bed bug encounter

On Sept. 11, Patriot's Day, the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's Office learned about a 54-year-old man exposed to Raid Ant and Roach Killer while trying to control bedbugs.

He'd applied a can and a half to his living room carpet. After sitting down and watching the TV, he fell asleep.

When he awoke, he had double vision, a headache and fever.

He was admitted to a local medical center suffering symptoms including a burning sensation on his face, diarrhea, vomiting and sweating. He was hospitalized for three days.

Investigators concluded that the man should not have used this pesticide as Raid Ant and Roach Killer is not approved for bed bug treatment.

Commissioner's Office staff talked with the man about the importance reading a pesticide's label before using it.

These stories all have a clear message for consumers; always follow all the rules and instructions that come with the pesticides. Use these chemicals with caution. Donít store pesticides in other containers.

You can read more on our webpage:

In all three stories the County Agricultural Commissioners' staff decided that even though there were some legal violations, the victims had suffered enough and decided not to press charges.

For content questions, contact:
Craig Cassidy
Public Information Officer I
DPR Office of Communications
1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015
Phone: (916) 445-5815