Virgin Islands methyl bromide exposure devastates Delaware family

The toxic chemical is banned except in narrow exceptions.

In a nightmarish turn of events, a Delaware family on a 2015 spring break vacation in the Virgin Islands was reportedly exposed to the invisible and odorless pesticide methyl bromide at a high-end resort, an event that has ended in unimaginable tragedy. Months later, two teenage boys remain hospitalized, one with paralysis and the other in and out of a coma, their father, a middle school administrator, also paralyzed, and mother, a dentist, making slow progress.

The resort had contracted with Terminix, the giant extermination company out of Memphis, Tennessee, to provide fumigation services. The Hockessin (Delaware) Community News cites a Terminix representative as saying it is conducting an internal investigation of the matter.

The incident is reportedly also under federal investigation.

A substance that also depletes the ozone layer, the dangerous chemical has been phased out over time since 1993 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the application of federal environmental law and international agreement. Since 2005, the EPA has banned methyl bromide except for narrowly approved uses to eliminate quarantine pests and in some agricultural applications with no feasible alternatives, mostly in strawberry production.

The pesticide is not approved for indoor use in homes or lodging establishments. According to the EPA and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the toxic chemical can cause in humans:

  • Central nervous system damage
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Respiratory failure
  • Severe injury to lungs and eyes
  • Skin damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

On July 1, 2015, The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that the territorial governor said in a press conference that Terminix' local license is under review; that the EPA is investigating the incident in coordination with the territory's environmental agency; and that "the family has not taken action against Terminix as yet."

Anyone injured by methyl bromide exposure or exposure to any other dangerous chemical, or whose loved one has died from such contact, should seek legal advice from a personal injury attorney with specific experience with similar claims. A law firm that has handled methyl bromide cases before will have advanced knowledge of the particular properties of the chemical and how it potentially injures humans, as well as of medical and scientific experts to assist in investigation and prosecution of such a case.

In addition, such a lawsuit would be legally complex, potentially involving several different causes of action and types of damages.

The lawyers of Soloff & Zervanos, P.C., with offices throughout the Philadelphia area and in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, have successfully represented the estate of a deceased victim of methyl bromide poisoning from insect fumigation.