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Daily News Archive
From October 31, 2001

Pesticide Poisoning Lawsuit Filed Against Bayer

The families of the children that were poisoned by methyl parathion, an organophosphate pesticide, in Peru have brought suit against the product's principal importer and manufacturer, Bayer reports the CBG Network. The suit was filed exactly two years ago to the day that 24 children in the remote Andean village of Tauccamarca were killed and 18 more severely poisoned after they drank a powdered milk substitute that had been contaminated with methyl parathion.

Folidol, the trade name of the methyl parathion product, was marketed widely in Peru for use on crops that are cultivated mostly by small farmers. The vast majority of these farmers are illiterate Quechua speakers. Nonetheless, Bayer packaged Folidol, a white powder that resembles powdered milk and has no strong chemical odor, in small plastic bags that provide no protection to users and give no indication of the danger of the product within. The bags were printed with pictures of carrots and potatoes and do not display any pictograms indicating danger or toxicity.

The lawsuit asserts that Bayer should have taken steps to prevent the misuse of this extremely toxic pesticide product. The suit also named the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture for failure to enforce Peruvian pesticide regulations. Methyl parathion is registered as a "restricted use" pesticide in Peru, which can only be legally sold with a technical prescription issued by an agronomist licensed by the Minister of Agriculture, nonetheless uncontrolled sales of this product and other pesticides, is reportedly the norm.

Methyl parathion is a Toxicity Class I (highest) pesticide and is classified as a "restricted use" pesticide in the U.S. It is illegal to use inside residences or other buildings. The U.S. EPA banned the use of methyl parathion on all fruits and some vegetables citing the protection of children from exposures from residues left on commonly eaten foods such as peaches, apples, pears, plums and tomatoes, in 1999. Methyl parathion inhibits proper metabolism of acetylcholine in the body and is extremely toxic to the central nervous system. Commonly reported symptoms after exposure include headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, loss of coordination, muscle twitching, tremors, vomiting, abdominal, cramps, and blurred vision. At higher levels, exposure can result in respiratory failure, convulsions, and death.

For more information about the lawsuit contact the CBG network, a German based Bayer watchdog organization, at CBGnetwork@aol.com. For more information about methyl parathion contact Beyond Pesticides.