Pesticide that paralyzed a family is commonly used in growing U.S. crops

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home-pesticide-use(NaturalHealth365) Methyl bromide, a chemical that seems to have paralyzed a Delaware family while they were vacationing in St. John, is still in use on U.S. produce. It is a toxic chemical known for causing neurological damage in humans.

Methyl bromide use is banned by the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement; however, it still receives “critical use” exemptions from the EPA in the U.S.

Toxic chemical methyl bromide still used as a pesticide on a range of foods

For example, methyl bromide is still used on strawberry fields and other crops as a soil fumigant to help prevent spoiling during transport and storage. Methyl bromide gas is also used to kill mites on grapes from Chile, as well as in preventing pests on rice, walnuts, raisins, plums, figs, dates, dried pork products and pet foods.

These exemption allowances do not have a specified end date. While use of this toxic chemical is declining, with its associated health risks, it should not be in use at all.

Application of methyl bromide is considered hazardous and requires special training as well as wearing a gas mask while applying it. People are not allowed in the vicinity while this toxic chemical is being administered, as off-gassing is harmful to human health. Methyl bromide eventually breaks down to methanol and bromide in the soil around the crops.

Warning: Methyl bromide can be deadly when used around humans

This chemical was once used to fumigate both commercial and residential buildings against pests ranging from insects to snakes to rodents. However, its use so close to residences was banned in 2005 by the EPA due to safety hazards. It had already been banned in 1987 by all United Nations member countries by the Montreal Protocol due to its negative effects on the ozone layer.

The Esmond family of Delaware fell seriously ill at the Sirenusa resort in St. John two days after the residence downstairs from theirs was treated with methyl bromide gas for pests. The father, Steve Esmond, was paralyzed, and his sons were rendered unconscious.

Around 1,000 cases of human poisoning caused by methyl bromide have been documented. The effects can range from mild eye and skin irritation to paralysis and death. Other effects can include neurological damage that manifests as dizziness, memory loss and loss difficulty maintaining balance.

Methyl bromide exposure is difficult to detect

Methyl bromide gas is particularly insidious since it is odorless and can accumulate in the human system for a time before health effects are noticed. It can take from 48 hours to several months after exposure for symptoms to manifest. The gradual effect plus neurological confusion can cause ongoing exposure.

Symptoms of methyl bromide exposure can include dizziness, headache, nausea, dry throat, abdominal discomfort and chest pain. Three to 12 hours after exposure, blurred vision, slurred speech, temporary blindness, sweating, and mental confusion can manifest.

Another compelling reason to know the source of your produce

From there, congestion, lung swelling, kidney damage, numbness, and hemorrhaging in the heart, spleen and brain can occur. Death from respiratory failure can occur between 1 and 30 hours. Exposure to the chemical has also been connected with miscarriage, thyroid disease and cancer.

Clearly, such a hazardous chemical should not be used in any capacity on or around humans or the food we eat. This story offers yet another reason to buy organic produce – locally, if possible.  After all, especially these days, it’s crucial to know the source of our food.


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  • that is scary to know such products are being used in food that is normally labelled as healthy

  • Ava Parker

    I will never look at food the same way. At one time it sustained us now it may poison us. Going to the supermarket is now a journey into the unknown.

    I do buy organic, however it is usually grown in a foreign country. Trust is a word I don’t use lightly. So I can’t say I trust or know for sure what fields are next to the organic farm and who handled the crop.

  • Josh Taylor

    When this is outlawed and can’t be used in agriculture what will they do with it? I am afraid to ask as every poison finds its way into greedy hands. Rather they getting rid of it they find a way to continue profiting. Think fluoride and vaccines and you start getting the picture.

  • Glory Days

    Is the population so expendable that there is no hesitation of using this? The producers of these toxic chemicals know full well what they do.

  • Amber Carson

    Before we had these pesticides food still grew. No matter what the reasons they give we are better off without pesticides. When we rotated what was grown we did better. Many of the lush vegetation that grows wild produces tons of fruits.

  • Megan Joplin

    Thanks to this article I cancelled the exterminator. They were coming once a month and after they sprayed I could smell it and my eyes would water. The few ants that appear sporadically are less of a concern now. We will use some natural substances to remedy this problem.