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Daily News Archive
From October 3, 2006                                                                                                        

Pesticide Misapplication Blamed for Woman’s Death
(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2006) A year after an Oregon woman died after re-entering her pesticide-treated home, the responsible pest management company is being investigated. An EPA affidavit says the chemicals used in her home were more than three times the allowed concentration and alleges Eugene-based Swanson’s Pest Management is liable for misapplying pesticides.

Florence Kolbeck died June 29, 2005, at 76-years-old shortly after returning to her home with her husband, Fred Kolbeck. Mr. Kolbeck said his wife immediately began choking and collapsed in his arms moments later. She suffered atrial fibrillation, a heart condition.

Her intense coughing likely caused cardiac arrest possibly because of heart arrhythmia, said Michael Heumann, state epidemiologist. Six other people, including Mr. Kolbeck, neighbors and paramedics, also reported difficulty breathing when they entered the house.

William Granstrom, the applicator in question, failed the test for his general pesticide license seven times before spraying the house and didn't pass the test until his ninth try -- two weeks after Florence Kolbeck died, according to search warrant documents.

Granstrom used both pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids in the Kolbeck’s home. State health investigators believe synthetic pyrethroids caused Kolbeck's death, along with her history of heart problems. Heumann, who has been reviewing statistics for cases similar to Kolbeck's, cites that from 1998 to 2003, the latest national data available, cases of people getting sick after exposure to pyrethroid chemicals have risen steadily.

As well as exposing applicator negligence, the Kolbeck case has highlighted the importance of limiting pesticide use, following labels and properly ventilating areas when pesticides are used, and that certain people, such as children and the elderly, need to be taken into account as they are more vulnerable to such toxics.

Source: Portland Oregonian, Associated Press

TAKE ACTION: If you hire someone to provide pest management for your home and/or workplace, ask what they use to control unwanted species and request that they use non-toxic or least-toxic methods. If you are looking for a service provider that uses non-toxic or least-toxic methods, visit our Safety Source directory. Beyond Pesticides is also receiving increasing reports of unauthorized treatments – make sure your provider does not perform unrequested treatments and report any such incidences to your state’s attorney general.