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Daily News Archive
From April 19, 2006                                                                                                        

Pesticide Fumes Sicken Schoolchildren
(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2006)
A pesticide sprayed in a yard across the street from 'Aina Haina Elementary School sent more than 40 students to five Honolulu hospitals yesterday afternoon for observation. One child vomited as a result of the pesticide fumes, other symptoms included nausea and watery, itchy eyes, said Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

The children were kept after school longer than usual to ensure that enough time had passed for the fumes to dissipate, Knudsen said. Children enrolled in the A-Plus after-school program were on campus yesterday afternoon as fire and hazardous-materials personnel were on the scene investigating.

The incident was the second elementary school incident in a little more than two months involving the house-and-garden pesticide malathion. Malathion is an organophosphate insecticide used to kill insects on farm crops and in gardens, treat lice on humans, and eradicate mosquitoes and rid pets of fleas. Exposure to malathion can cause difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, sweating, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and in extreme doses, death. Malathion has been shown in animal testing and from use experience to affect not only the central nervous system, but the immune system, adrenal glands, liver and blood as well. Malathion has shown to be mutagenic in humans and animals and has also been associated with birth defects in domestic and laboratory animals.

On Feb. 28, a Honolulu fire hazmat crew was called because a resident poured malathion on her driveway on Ho'ono Street, creating a chemical odor at Waiau Elementary School. Two schoolchildren became ill from the fumes and were treated by city Emergency Medical Services paramedics.

Yesterday about 20 firefighters responded to a call from 'Aina Haina Elementary and found about 15 children suffering from nausea, dizziness and itchy eyes. By the time firefighters found the yard on Makalena Street that was treated with malathion and managed to reduce the potency, 44 children were claiming discomfort, Fire Department Capt. Kenison Tejada said. EMS technicians ferried the children to five hospitals in two city buses for tests, Knudsen said.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that hundreds of students and school employees are being poisoned by pesticide use at schools and from drift off of neighboring farmlands every year, and many incidents go unreported (See Daily News 7/27/05).