Organophosphate and carbamate pesticides have been well documented to cause acute poisoning in humans in a variety of settings (1,2). These settings include occupational exposures among pesticide applicators, manufacturing workers and farm workers; accidental inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion, especially by children; and intentional attempts at suicide (1–6).
Organophosphates and carbamates are two of the dominant classes of pesticides used for residential pest control in urban areas in the United States. Despite widespread use of these agents and considerable concern about their possible deleterious effects, especially given the large population potentially exposed, there have been few reports of urban residents made acutely or chronically ill by pesticides (5–7).
This report describes a family with clinical and laboratory evidence of acute pesticide poisoning caused by the excessive application of pesticide products used for urban residential pest control.
The affected family consisted of three members, a 32 year-old mother, a 35 year-old father, and their 14 year-old daughter, who were well prior to late November, 1984, when their apartment underwent commercial pesticide application for extermination of fleas. The apartment had been sprayed with unknown pesticides two times several weeks previously without the desired result and without causing illness in the family. The father reported that on November 24, 1984, a professional pesticide applicator sprayed an unknown pesticide using a tank and hose apparatus; he subsequently used eight pressurized canisters (bombs) of a specific pesticide formulation. These canisters were filled with a commercial product containing two active pesticidal ingredients: an organophosphate pesticide, dichlorvos (2,2 dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate), and a carbamate pesticide, propoxur (2-(1-methylethoxy) phenol methylcarbamate). Additional “inert” ingredients of the preparation were not identified. Each container was recommended to be used for 6000 cubic feet; the apartment was estimated to have a volume of 7000 cubic feet.