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Lawn Pesticide Poisoning:
A Timeline Of My Story
Brenda Jones RN
Manatee County, Florida

12/18/03

  • Morning of Friday, January 10, 2003 TRUGREEN ChemLawn treats our lawn for broadleaf and cinch bugs.
    • I told him not to do anything until I took my dog out and returned inside the house. He told me that after the lawn had dried that it was perfectly safe, and that it was so safe that he did not even use a mask. He returned to his truck and I took my dog out.
    • While facing away from him waiting for my dog, and I began to cough and the dog started to wheeze. I turned to see that the applicator had begun to spray only 15-18 feet away from me. I ran to the house coughing and my eyes burning.
    • By evening I was very sick with nausea, burning throat and sternal area, bad headache, and persistent cough. My children complained of headaches and said they hurt everywhere.
  • Saturday everyone was too ill to get out of bed. I could not stop coughing, was short of breath and extremely tired. My husband and children complained of headaches, stomach pains, and loose stools. The windows were closed but the chemicals were still getting in to our home. The dog vomited a couple times and then was very still and would not eat. I called my medical doctor and left a message.
    • My husband calls Tru-Green, and asks for the information about the chemicals that we all had been exposed to. Company sends Material Data Safety Sheet for atrazine and bifentrin.
    • Contacted the Poison Control Center and was told they don’t handle pesticides.
  • Sunday still sick. Left another message on for a doctor to call me. My children were still complaining of headaches and dizziness. I contacted their doctor as well.
  • Monday morning saw a doctor. My symptoms continued. My physician wrote that I had been exposed to chemicals and gave me a prescription for antibiotics and steroids.
  • After a week I saw another doctor. I was then given an inhaler of steroids. Still no blood work was done to test for chemical exposure.
  • Two weeks after poisoning, contacted Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was referred to (Florida’s) EPA to report poisoning. Reported with someone in Dept. of Health – wrong person apparently. Got lost in EPA for weeks.
  • Feb. I reported to work but was unable to complete my shift - became symptomatic with dizziness, weakness and tremors.
  • Feb. Contacted Department of Health again and was referred to the (Dept. of Agriculture) Department of Entomology and Pest Control to investigate the chemicals and proper use of them on the day that I was exposed. Left message.
  • Mar. Went back to doctor and was referred to lung specialist. Had MSDS but no one knew how to get inert ingredients. Lung doctor said my airway was reactive, and that I may always have this problem.
  • The experts on pesticides exposure at the University of South Florida would not see me because they only see patients that are referred by an attorney or by an insurance company.
  • Contacted a pesticide toxicologist. He told me that since it had been several months after exposure, I was at a stage where long-term effects had manifested themselves. Told that there is very little that can be done to decontaminate a person.
  • Apr. Decided to leave Florida due to excessive spraying.
  • Received a call from state investigator the day before my children and I were leaving Florida. He said the message just got to him.
  • After being away a month I began to feel a little better. My children were not getting sick like when they were around all of the pesticides spraying. They had lots of energy again, and had no complaints of stomach pains, tiredness, weakness or dizziness. By the third month I felt much better and my tremors had stopped, but my airway reacted to areas where chemicals were.
  • Apr. Received a letter from state investigator’s office that they’d talked or met with TRUGREEN Chemlawn and that it’s too late to collect a soil-sample or do on-site investigation.
  • Mid-August returned to our home in Florida. Back two weeks when a few lawns were sprayed with pesticides and my children and I started to become symptomatic again. I worked a few shifts and became dizzy and felt sick.
  • Son having trouble focusing at school and is symptomatic.
  • Principal says he’s unaware of any pesticide activity on or around property.
  • Found out that pesticides were being sprayed within yards from the school property. The men spraying do not speak much English. I asked them what they where going to spray and they said “no English.” How can they read the labels for instructions to use these chemicals?
  • Neighboring grounds manager says that weed killers and pesticides are registered with the EPA, are safe to use and will not hurt the children. Refuses not to spray during school hours.
  • Nov. Son is continually ill and is pulled from school to be temporarily home schooled.

SINCE MY EXPOSURE:

  • Witnessed applicators spraying bushes while children are playing less than a few feet away.
  • Another applicator placed a poison sign in a yard where 7 children were playing. He was getting ready to treat the lawn with the children still playing there. He told me that it was “only weed killer and fertilizer granules, and they won’t hurt the children.” Another neighbor witnessed this applicator spray pesticides and not use granules.
  • My next door neighbor had another pest service come to service her lawn on a windy day. I asked the applicator before he started not to spray because it would end up in my yard and make us very sick. He told me he was doing his job. He began to spray from a large nozzle. The mist was blowing chemicals on to our property. I began filming him through the window. He threw his hose down, came onto my property and banged on my door and yelled at me to stop filming him. Children were scared and crying.
  • Was out walking with my children and dog when I ran into an applicator with a large hose hooked to a truck. She was ready to spray a nature preserve with herbicides (20 ft) away from us. I informed her that she would poison us if she sprayed with us there, and that I would report her if she started spraying before we left. She replied, I can’t tell everyone. The number is on the truck out front, go ahead.

My cousin was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma at 9 years old and died at thirteen. The cancer that killed her was a type caused by poison exposure, such as pesticides, as a child. I will remember Amanda and every child that I have seen over the past 15 years who has died from cancers linked to pesticide exposures. I will try to educate others to help prevent this from happening to every child that I can. A few weeds or a couple of bugs are not worth becoming ill or dying over!