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Oregon pest-control company reaches $4550 settlement with the EPA for illegal pesticide use

Release Date: 04/28/2009
Contact Information: Chad Schulze, EPA/Seattle, 206-553-0505, schulze.chad@epa.gov; Mark MacIntyre, EPA/Seattle, 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark@epa.gov

(Seattle, Wash. – April 28, 2009) Swanson’s Pest Management, Inc., of Eugene, Oregon, has reached a $4550 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency resulting from a pesticide exposure event that led to a woman’s death near Florence, Oregon. The original Complaint, filed following a review of Swanson’s use of two pesticides, named multiple violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). One of the most serious violations was linked to a death at a treated home in Florence, Oregon.

According to Scott Downey, EPA Pesticides and Toxics Unit Manager in Seattle, the facts of the case are startling…and tragic.

“We expect everyone, especially professional applicators, to use special care and follow the label instructions closely,” said Downey. “In this case, we believe that three serious mistakes were made: the pesticide wasn’t mixed according to directions, it was misapplied as a fine mist instead of a coarse spray, and the home was not adequately ventilated after application. Sadly, when someone entered the home over two hours later, they were overcome by the fumes and tragically died as a result.”

Downey added that the applicator is ultimately responsible for meeting all of the use restrictions and requirements on the pesticide label. Even if the applicator enters into a contract with the homeowner outlining label requirements the homeowner agrees to undertake (such as covering food, covering dishes, washing dishes after application, ventilation etc), the applicator could still be held liable for tasks not performed by the homeowner.

According to documents associated with the case, six more people, including the responding paramedics, experienced respiratory distress or became ill when they entered the treated home.

EPA officials confirmed that although the consequences of Swanson’s alleged violations were extremely serious, the federal pesticide law limits the penalty EPA can seek under FIFRA to a maximum of $4550.

“It’s hard to imagine what clearer proof people might need to take pesticide use labels seriously,” said EPA’s Downey. “Pesticides are useful, effective tools, but can cause serious injury or death if used irresponsibly. We encourage people to contact their state pesticide agency or EPA if they need help in understanding pesticide label instructions.”

For more about EPA’s pesticide work and the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), go to:

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/