Jun 08, 2012
Ministry investigating pesticide incident (Ontario)
By Sarah Doktor, Simcoe Reformer
Friday, June 8, 2012 12:28:28 EDT PM
NORFOLK – Residents who were forced to flee their homes late Tuesday night because of exposure to the soil fumigant chloropicrin are looking for answers.
“My concern, really, is now what? Is that going to impact on our ground water? The air quality?” said Rick Eller, one of the residents evacuated from the Highway 24 and St. Johns Road area. “What’s the plan here? What are you going to do to protect my family and the people around here?”
The Ministry of the Environment told the Reformer in an emailed statement, “The ministry, along with many other agencies such as OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) and the local fire department, have responded to the incident and continue to closely monitor the situation.
“Provincial officials are back on the scene today (June 6) to collect details of what took place and determine if any additional action is required. The ministry has also begun its own investigation into this incident.”
Carl Atkinson, vice chair of the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association, offered some insight into the incident explaining while the active ingredient in the fumigant has been used in the industry for decades, this specific kind of chloropicrin has only been registered for use in the area for a year.
While he couldn’t comment on this specific incident, proper application of fumigants is “taken very seriously in the industry,” said Atkinson.
In a media release issued Wednesday morning the Norfolk County OPP said the incident was due to weather conditions, but couldn’t comment further on what those conditions were.
Eller said the temperatures were mild on Tuesday night with no wind.
“It just seemed bizarre,” said Eller.
Eller first noticed his eyes were sore before he could even smell the fumigant that was radiating from the field behind his backyard.
Once the smell came, so did the coughing.
“You literally couldn’t breathe,” said Eller. “It was really scary.”
Residents were also evacuated in a separate incident of the same fumigant at Highway 3 and Middleton Church Road near Delhi.
“I’ve never, ever experienced that, when I couldn’t breathe,” said Eller. “It wasn’t like it was a mild irritant. If you breathed it, you would not be thinking that.”
Eller was one of more than a dozen people who went to the hospital following the exposure. He was treated for his symptoms and released, as were the others, including two police officers and five firefighters.
A similar, albeit minor, incident involving the same pesticide was reported to the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, although “it did not have the magnitude or overall impacts as the situation (Tuesday night),” said Kate Jordan, who is with the communications branch of The Ministry of Environment, in an email.
While the ministry continues to investigate, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is telling residents who may have been exposed to the chloropicrin to exercise caution.
If residents develop trouble breathing they should seek medical help immediately. Pulmonary edema, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, can occur 24 to 48 hours after exposure to chloropicrin.
Any food that was exposed such as fruit on a countertop, open sugar bowls or butter left out should be discarded to avoid ingesting any residue.
Children’s toys, countertops, tabletops and other surfaces should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
“We also recommend that homeowners ventilate their house as best they can, especially low lying areas such as basements and crawl spaces,” said Sandy Stevens, Program Coordinator for the health unit’s Healthy Environment Team in a media release.
If pets or animals were outside or exposed to the chloropicrin they may need to be bathed and should be monitored for difficulty breathing, coughing or skin irritation.
Residents with questions about chloropicrin symptoms and treatments can contact the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017.
519-426-3528 ext. 112