Lubbock pest professionals explain dangers of poison that killed - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lubbock pest professionals explain dangers of poison that killed Amarillo children, condition of mother still critical


AMARILLO, TX (KSWO)- A Texas woman is in critical condition a day after four of her children died and five other family members were sickened by an accidental poisoning under her home.

A spokesman for University Medical Center in Lubbock says 45-year-old Martha Balderas is in critical condition.BSA Health System in Amarillo says five patients are in stable condition at its hospital. Fire officials say they are Balderas' husband and four of their children.

Authorities say poisonous gas was released when a family member used water to wash away pesticide pellets he had placed under the mobile home. Fire officials said the three boys, ages, 7, 9 and 11, and a girl age 17, died Monday.

The chemical compound that produced a toxic gas that killed four children in Amarillo is a fumigant that requires a license for use.

Tim Gafford, the owner of Gafford Pest Control, is a pest control expert who received this license and even had to go through background checks to use aluminum phosphide.

While he and his employees do not use it often, he said when they do it is in safe, quarantined areas away from homes…mainly at grain elevators.

"There's a warning agent in this thing," he said. "It's odorless and tasteless, but it has a garlic, real pungent odor to it. I don't know how people stay in a room with that stuff for a period of time."

Gafford knows that breathing the gas these pellets make when they get wet could kill someone, so it should stay out of unexperienced hands.

"It's a highly restricted product that only licensed fumigators can get operating under fumigation plan set forth by the EPA on aluminum phosphide-type products," he said. "Unfortunately, somebody picked up some product somewhere."

Gafford believes it has been too easy for the general public to get this product. He referenced a case from 2007, when a 2-year-old girl died in East Lubbock after she inhaled phosphine gas released from the aluminum phosphide (Phostoxin) pellets in her home.

"States and agencies who regulate these products need to step in and do something about it," Gafford said, "because you shouldn't be able to go on Craigslist or Amazon and buy phosphide. You just shouldn't be able to."

Just last year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports there were 82,000 pesticide poisonings reported, 76 for aluminum phosphide…which caused two deaths.

Since the Amarillo victim's father borrowed the aluminum phosphide from a family friend, Commissioner Sid Miller with TX Department of Agriculture made this statement:

"It is to be only used by a licensed pesticide applicator who is trained in its use," he said. "It's very, very lethal."

Through increased education, Miller and Gafford hope to prevent any more of these accidental deaths.

"It's just one of those sad things that shouldn't happen," Gafford said.

If a pest problem that is not contained with over-the-counter products, that is when Miller and Gafford suggest calling a pest control expert.

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