CDC Reports on Family’s Methyl Bromide Exposure in U.S. Virgin Islands
In March, a family of four vacationing at a condominium resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands was exposed to methyl bromide when the pesticide, which has been banned in the U.S. for use in residential settings, was used to fumigate an unoccupied housing unit below the one in which they were staying. Two days later, the family was transported to a hospital with a 24-hour history of progressive neurologic symptoms, including generalized weakness, severe muscle spasms, altered senses, and word-finding difficulty. Three family members had life-threatening illness and required endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. A CDC report released in late July details the investigation of the exposure that caused the family’s severe illness by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and EPA. The report also covers the subsequent public health response and discusses other individuals’ potential exposures to methyl bromide. “This investigation serves as a reminder to clinicians to consider the possibility of acute chemical toxicity in the relevant clinical and epidemiologic situation,” the report reads. CDC notes that interpretation of bromide levels should be “undertaken cautiously” with the assistance of personnel trained in occupational health or toxicology due to limitations of certain types of bromide testing and lack of direct correlation between bromide levels and the presence and severity of clinical symptoms. The agency urges pest control companies to ensure that their employees receive proper training for applying products like methyl bromide in a safe manner, including appropriate use of personal protective equipment and appropriate signage. For more information, see the CDC report.