1 dead, 3 youths hospitalized after Jefferson County insecticide exposure

 

LOUISVILLE, Ga. — A Wadley woman was killed and three children sent to a hospital late Wednesday after being exposed to an agricultural insecticide that a relative said had been used in the woman’s house to exterminate pests, according to Jefferson County authorities.

The insecticide, Fumitoxin, is believed to have released a gas that was inhaled by Rosa Gilmore Green, 58, and her 12-year-old grandson at the home in the 600 block of North Martin Luther King Boulevard, according to a statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

The problem was discovered by Green’s son, who noticed a heavy chemical odor at the home during a visit, said Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Chalker. The son took Green and the child to his home on Farm Street, where his mother’s condition worsened. About 7:50 p.m., Jefferson County 911 received a call for assistance for a woman who was weak and unable to move, according to a statement from Jefferson County Emergency Services.

Green, the boy and two granddaughters who were at the Farm Street residence were taken to the emergency room at Jefferson County Hospital, which was later closed because of concerns of chemical exposure.

Green was declared dead by the hospital’s attending physician. The three youths were transferred to Georgia Regents Medical Center.

The girls, 11 and 14, were taken to the hospital as a precaution and have been released. The boy remains in critical but stable condition, according to Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis.

An investigation by authorities showed that a family member used the insecticide in Green’s home Wednesday.

Gold Cross EMS responded to the 911 call and took Green to Jefferson County Hospital. Later, in response to a possible hazardous materials exposure situation, the county’s EMS and Swainsboro Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team went to the hospital to assist in the emergency room’s evacuation and identification of the chemical.

First responders and emergency room staffers were decontaminated. Monitoring equipment designed to detect airborne contaminants showed an unknown contaminant was present in the room with the patient and not in any other area of the emergency room or hospital, according to an EMS statement.

The Fumitoxin comes in tablet form and when exposed to moisture in the atmosphere, activates and emits phosphine gas, according to Chalker. The insecticide is commonly used by farmers to kill weevils, mice and other insects in stored crops, such as small grain and corn. The tablets are placed in grain storage bins and sealed to allow the phosphine gas to penetrate and kill any mammal inside the storage bin. According to the applicator’s manual, it should never be used in a home or building occupied by humans.

Jefferson County Hospital’s emergency room was reopened early Thursday after the decontamination and consultation with the chemical’s manufacturer and other hazardous-materials entities, the statement said.

Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Faye McGahee said Thursday afternoon that Green’s body was going to be released to a funeral home.

“I’ve got to take a blood sample and take it to Atlanta for analysis,” McGahee said.

 

Staff writer Doug Stutsman and Morris News Service reporter Carol McLeod contributed to this story.

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