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

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