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Pesticide Exposure Attorneys Serving Millersville, Maryland

Pesticides are widely used throughout the United States in non-agricultural settings, including inside homes, outside homes, and in offices, schools, and recreational areas. Over 100 million pounds of pesticides are applied on lawns alone every year. The use of lawn care pesticides is increasing by about 5 to 8 percent annually. In fact, four times as many pesticides are used on home lawns as are used to grow food crops.

All pesticide products — whether used in lawn care, household fumigation, pet care, or personal-care products like insect repellents — contain substantial amounts of inert ingredients that are harmful to your health. Small amounts of pesticides can cause eye and skin irritations, damage to the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, cancer, and even death. Despite this, large quantities of pesticides are used in the United States every year.

Out of the 26 most widely used pesticides in the U.S., 12 are classified as carcinogens by the EPA. Pesticides have a variety of effects on reproduction. In exposed people, some pesticides cause birth defects, some cause miscarriages, some cause babies to be born small, and others decrease fertility. Reproductive effects can occur in males, females, or both. As with cancer, perhaps the most striking statistics are the sheer volume of pesticides used every year that have harmful effects on reproduction. Of the 26 most commonly used pesticides in the U.S., 9 have harmful effects on male reproduction (causing sperm abnormalities, reducing sperm production, disrupting male hormones, and damaging male reproductive organs, mostly in laboratory tests). Most of the 26 commonly-used pesticides have also caused decreased pregnancy success in laboratory tests. Miscarriages, a reduction in the number of living offspring, and reduced birth weights are common problems. One widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, has been a recent focus of litigation. Every year 30 million pounds of chlorpyrifos is sprayed into American homes, businesses, and fields. Chlorpyrifos kills pests by disrupting normal nerve transmission, inhibiting an enzyme in the insect’s nervous system. In humans, chlorpyrifos can cause headaches, blurred vision, nausea, convulsions, flu-like symptoms, and even seizures. In extreme cases, it has been linked to quadriplegia, genetic damage, birth defects, immune-system abnormalities, and death.

From 1985 to 1992, almost 26,000 cases of chlorpyrifos exposure were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Data collected by the AAPCC in 1997 showed that chlorpyrifos exposures averaged 3,000 per year. Data also shows that chlorpyrifos has the most life-threatening medical conditions of any organophosphate pesticide on the market. People exposed to significant quantities of chlorpyrifos have suffered seizures and learning disabilities. Terminix has faced several lawsuits in excess of $100 million for using chlorpyrifos. Pesticide claims can be brought on grounds of negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, and breach of warranty.

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Pesticide Background

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Pests can be insects, mice, other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, or microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

Many household products are pesticides:

  • Cockroach sprays and baits

  • Insect repellents for personal use

  • Rat and other rodent poisons

  • Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars

  • Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers

  • Products that kill mold and mildew

  • Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers

  • Some swimming pool chemicals

By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms. Pesticide use is not just limited to farming. Human exposure to pesticides can come from household pesticides and pesticides used during work, i.e., by farmers, golf-course workers, etc. If spills or accidents occur, workers in plants that manufacture pesticides may be exposed. In fact, you may have been exposed to harmful pesticides without your knowledge in places you never expected.

For example, on flights to at least six countries (Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Madagascar, Kiribati, India, and Uruguay), passengers are directly sprayed with pesticides, while still strapped in their seats, before being allowed to disembark from the plane. On flights to many other countries, passengers are exposed, without their knowledge or consent, to pesticides sprayed prior to passenger boarding. This method is intended to leave long-lasting insect-killing residues in the passenger cabin. Countries that require such spraying on some or all flights include Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Panama, Fiji, Guam, and others. The use of sprays on these international flights is required by the particular destination countries, and therefore must be done by all airlines flying to those countries.

Passengers on domestic flights may also be exposed to residues of insecticides sprayed on planes at the discretion of the airlines. Many pesticide products are registered in the U.S. for use on aircraft, including in passenger cabins. There is nothing in current regulations to prohibit airlines from using such products in cabins immediately prior to passenger boarding. Airplane passenger cabins are already noted for their poor air quality due to the lack of adequate ventilation and restrictions on the intake of fresh air during flights. Up to 50 percent (or more) of the air in passenger cabins of newer generation aircraft is recycled. Deliberately introducing intentional poisons into this enclosed and poorly ventilated environment creates additional and unnecessary health hazards for all airline passengers. Infants, young children, pregnant women, asthmatics, cancer patients, and other sensitive individuals may be at special risk.

International and domestic travelers may be dermally exposed to residues of pesticide sprays or dust remaining on carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces of aircraft cabins treated prior to passenger boarding. Passengers may also be exposed to vapors or residues through recirculated air, or to pesticides volatilizing from carpets or fabric seat coverings. Young children may also ingest residues picked up from surfaces via hand-to-mouth contact. Passengers may also be exposed to residues of pesticides on their luggage.

Pesticide: Risk to Children

Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons:

  • Their internal organs are still developing and maturing.

  • In relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.

  • Certain behaviors — such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths — increase a child’s exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.

Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child’s excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are “critical periods” in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual’s biological system operates.

For these reasons, and as specifically required under the Food Quality Protection Act (1996), the EPA carefully evaluates children’s exposure to pesticide residues in and on foods they most commonly eat (i.e., apples and apple juice, orange juice, potatoes, tomatoes, soybean oil, sugar, eggs, pork, chicken, and beef). The EPA is also evaluating new and existing pesticides to ensure that they can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to adults as well as infants and children. According to data collected from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 1995 alone, an estimated 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide-related poisonings or exposures in the United States. An additional 19,837 children were exposed to or poisoned by household chlorine bleach.

A survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding pesticides used in and around the home revealed some significant findings:

  • Almost half (47%) of all households with children under the age of five had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet, less than 4 feet off the ground (i.e., within the reach of children).

  • Approximately 75% of households without children under the age of five also stored pesticides in an unlocked cabinet, less than 4 feet off the ground (i.e., within the reach of children). This number is especially significant because 13% of all pesticide poisoning incidents occur in homes other than the child’s home.

  • Bathrooms and kitchens were cited as the areas in the home most likely to have improperly stored pesticides. Examples of some common household pesticides found in bathrooms and kitchens include roach sprays; chlorine bleach; kitchen and bath disinfectants; rat poison; insect and wasp sprays, repellents and baits; and, flea and tick shampoos and dips for pets. Other household pesticides include swimming pool chemicals and weed killers.

The EPA regulates pesticides in the United States under the pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act). Since 1981, the law has required most residential-use pesticides with a signal word of “danger” or “warning” to be in child-resistant packaging. These are the pesticides that are most toxic to children. Child-resistant packaging is designed to prevent most children under the age of five from gaining access to the pesticide or at least delay their access. However, individuals must also take precautions to protect children from accidental pesticide poisonings or exposures.

For more information on Pesticide In Maryland, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking and talk to Arnold F. Phillips by calling today. We serve the areas of Millersville, Cumberland, McHenry, Garrett County, and Allegany County, Maryland.