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Pesticide contamination has ruined their lives, Richmond family says

May 2nd, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Shayna Marcure

RICHMOND — Josh was tired, lethargic, had severe headaches, numbness in his fingers, tremors and other relentless indicators that something was seriously wrong. “We were literally beside ourselves watching our son get sicker and sicker, with no direction on what was causing his illness or what we could do to help him get better,” his parents said.

Karen and Marte Frandsen, Josh’s frightened parents, wrote their story last year in a letter that would eventually be sent to multiple city and state government and environmental agencies. The letter addressed their autistic son’s symptoms, their own health issues, and the home that  remains poisonous and uninhabitable for their family still today.

To blame? Pesticides, say the Frandsens.

The Frandsens say their home underwent numerous tests and evaluations. The only useful feedback from testing was the presence of carbon dioxide and VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, a gaseous release from chemicals in the soils under and around the house, being released into the home through a hole in the basement floor. According to the Frandsens, a neighbor’s pesticide business was the culprit behind the effects the family had been feeling, as well as leakage from pesticide jugs that were once stored less than 50 feet from the family’s home.

Cache Valley Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD) is the entity overseeing fogging practices, or pesticide-spraying, in all of Cache Valley except Logan and College-Young Ward. CMAD’s website describes the Integrated Pest Management program it use. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (…) estimated that exposure and risks to both adults and children posed by fogging with malathion are hundreds and even thousands of times below an amount that might pose a health concern,” it reads.

Malathion is the organophosphate insecticide used in recent years by CMAD, but according to Terrie Weirenga, Richmond’s public liaison officer and CMAD’s administrative manager, a new chemical has been introduced to Cache County this year. “We call it Kontrol 3030, it’s a different class of pesticide, permethrin-based.”

Explaining why the change was made, Weirenga says,  “One, it’s cheaper this year, and we care about controlling the cost for people in our district. Two, good practice is to use a different class of compound about every seven to ten years to prevent resistance build-up.

“And we don’t just spray to spray,” she said in reference to the three fogging trucks that scout the district during summer evenings when mosquitoes are most active. “We set up new traps every week so we know how many mosquitoes are in every area, and which species they are.”

Kontrol 3030 is only used when the adult mosquito population is high enough that there are requests for fogging, or confirmed presence of disease, such as West Nile Virus, or Western Equine Encephalitis, she said.

The type of mosquito to be aware of is Culex Pipiens, which swarm man-made water pools and carry West Nile Virus.
Though last year there were no reported cases of West Nile Virus in Cache County, there were four reported positive test results for the disease in humans in the surrounding counties of Box Elder, Weber and Summit.

The CMAD office receives calls frequently from residents. A majority of those come from residents seeking more fogging on and around their property, and about 40 percent are requests to be added to the “no spray” list.

According to Weirenga, CMAD works hard to address special cases regarding health risks fogging might cause.
“The state of Utah gives us the right to do whatever we want, whenever we want. If someone lets us know that they have health issues, bee hives, or an organic farm or garden, we will honor their no-spray request.”

CMAD’s site provides information regarding how to submit a “no spray” request. It must be submitted each year a resident wants to be omitted from fogging activity.

“The EPA and numerous professional scientists and doctors have studied the effects of Kontrol, and at the rates we use, for a typical healthy adult — and a majority of the population is —  they will see no effects ever. It’s meant specifically to kill mosquitoes,” Weirenga said.

But there are many residents who prefer to not deal with possible potential effects of pesticides on humans. Some of these symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache and coughing, according to Health & Environmental Effects of Pesticides. There is also some evidence linking pesticides, including malathion and some pyrethroids, to immunotoxicity, or changes in the immune system’s function in humans.

The Frandsens told Hard News Café that they have been in a state of limbo, always being referred to Utah’s Department of Agriculture, which, they say, has offered hardly any useful advice.

“If you call, everyone knows how to deal with an industrial spill, but no one wants to or seems to know how to deal with a chronic long-term exposure or residential problem. There appears to be no one to protect citizens,” Karen Frandsen said.

Today when the Frandsens visit their home, they can still smell chemicals, and say they feel negative bodily symptoms almost immediately after arrival. The family is now residing in a rental home. “Our newly built home, and all of our belongings, basically everything familiar that makes your house a home, is sitting vacant and unlivable.”


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