As part of its ongoing work to address the illegal use of toxic pesticides containing methyl bromide in the Caribbean, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued legal complaints against two individuals and a pest control company in Puerto Rico for violating federal pesticides law and the Clean Air Act, the agency announced Tuesday.
From 2013 to early 2015, Edwin Andújar-Bermudez, doing business as Truly Nolen Pest Control de Caguas, and Wilson J. Torres-Rivera, the owner of Tower & Son Exterminating, Corp., fumigated residences and other unauthorized locations in several Puerto Rico municipalities with pesticides containing methyl bromide.
The use of methyl bromide is restricted in the U.S. due to its acute toxicity and because it is an ozone-depleting substance. As certified applicators, Andujar and Torres face civil penalties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, as does Torres’ company. Andujar and Tower & Son Exterminating, Corp. additionally face civil penalties under the Clean Air Act, the EPA said.
“Protecting people’s health in Puerto Rico is of paramount importance,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Pesticides can be very toxic. Applying methyl bromide products in homes is dangerous and against federal law.”
The health effects of exposure to methyl bromide are serious and include headaches, dizziness, weakness and confusion. In severe cases exposure can cause central nervous system and respiratory system damage. Only certified applicators are allowed to use methyl bromide in certain approved locations and for purposes specified on a given product’s label; methyl bromide products are not allowed to be used in dwellings.
From March to October of 2015, investigators from the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and the EPA conducted inspections at M&P Pest Control Inc., a pesticide distributor in San Juan, and at the facilities of various pesticide applicators in Puerto Rico to collect information regarding the purchase and use of pesticides containing methyl bromide.
The investigation revealed that Andújar had purchased Meth-O-Gas Q, which contains Methyl Bromide, from M&P and had, on numerous occasions, improperly applied it in residences and other unauthorized locations and without following specific instructions and restrictions on the label, the EPA said.
The investigation further revealed that Tower & Son Exterminating had also purchased Meth-O-Gas Q, from M & P and that Torres and his company had, on numerous occasions, improperly applied it in residences and other unauthorized locations and without following specific instructions and restrictions on the label.
In addition, the investigation revealed that Torres and his company had improperly stored cylinders of the pesticide in a storage area that was neither secured nor well-ventilated.