Terminix Fined $10M After Family is Poisoned by Banned Chemicals
In March 2015, Steve Esmond, his wife Theresa, and their teenage sons Ryan and Sean traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the vacation of a lifetime. The family had booked their accommodations at a luxurious condo in a resort in St. John. Their vacation suddenly turned from a dream to a nightmare when the entire family suddenly started having seizures. The family was treated at hospitals in the Virgin Islands before eventually being moved back to the continental U.S. Just over a year later, the family is still struggling to recover, but action is being taken against the party responsible for causing their injuries.
During the family’s trip, Terminix had been out at the resort to spray another condo in the complex, beneath where the Esmond family was staying, for indoor insects. An investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the Terminix employee had sprayed the room using methyl bromide, an odorless, highly toxic pesticide that has been banned for indoor residential use in the United States and its territories since 1984. Since then, it has been used for industrial farming purposes.
Although the pesticide was not sprayed in the unit where the Esmond family was staying, it still managed to seep into the Esmonds’ unit, causing severe injuries. When paramedics arrived at the scene, Steve Esmond was unconscious and Theresa and their sons were experiencing seizures. Exposure to methyl bromide can damage the central nervous system and the respiratory system.
In the time since the incident, Theresa has been able to make the strongest recovery since she had the least exposure to the methyl bromide. Ryan and Sean have suffered permanent nerve damage. Six months after the incident, an attorney representing the family told CNN that Ryan and Sean were barely able to move and Steve was suffering from extreme tremors and had a very difficult time speaking.
An investigation found that Terminix had knowingly used methyl bromide in over a dozen other residences in the Virgin Islands between September 2012 and February 2015. As a result of the findings, Terminix has agreed to pay $10 million in fines, $8 million of which is criminal fines, $1 million is to compensate the EPA for cleaning up the condo, and $1 million is for a community service project.
To prevent incidents like this from happening again, Terminix has voluntarily stopped using methyl bromide all together in the United States and its territories, with the exception of one government-supervised contract job at the Port of Baltimore. Terminix has also stopped their operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands and will be providing technicians with training about how to properly apply the products they use. The company also said they will be making “good faith efforts” to take care of the medical expenses the family has faced and will continue to face in the years to come, which is being handled by a separate civil process.