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Daily News Archive
From February 28, 2002

Pesticides Used in Simulated Terrorist Attack

As Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO crumbled, emergency response crews arrived on the scene only to be overwhelmed by the second phase of the attack. Malathion, a highly toxic organophosphate pesticide, had been packed into the bomb that had exploded in the stadium. While this was only a simulation, set up by the city to test and train emergency response teams responding to a terrorist attack, government officials and others responsible for protecting the public realize the danger if toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, and the ease with which they can be obtained.

According to the Washington Post, the simulated attack in Denver was timed to coincide with the final stages of the demolition of Mile High Stadium, the former home of the National Football League's Denver Broncos. Mayor Wellington E. Webb decided that the stadium's destruction could provide an ideal backdrop for a weekend of exercises testing the region's ability to respond to terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. For the exercises, the stadium was outfitted to resemble an office building.

City officials gave the public advance warning that a drill would be held, but no one knew exactly what would happen. "It's kind of chaotic, but it shows that getting it all together is a big feat," Wendy Lopez, a Denver paramedic, told the Washington Post as she transported two "victims" to a downtown hospital. "It's good practice."

Similar events were staged in other cities around the country. In San Diego, the simulation involved smallpox. In Palm Beach County, Fla., it was nerve gas. In South Bend, Ind., officials pretended that toxic chemicals were released in a government building. In the next several months, similar exercises are planned for places such as Baltimore, Richmond and Cheyenne, WY.

In Maryland, state Delegate Dan Morhaim has proposed legislation that would help prevent pesticides from being used as weapons. Restricted Use Pesticides - Use and Access (HB#809), was introduced on February 6, 2002. The bill, which is supported by the Maryland Pesticide Network and Beyond Pesticides, requires anyone that has access to restricted use pesticides, including employees of certified applicators, employees of manufacturing and storage facilities, and pilots of crop dusters and pesticide spray truck drivers, to have a criminal background check. It also requires that applicators of restricted use pesticides act under the instructions and control and within visual or voice contact of a certified applicator.

For more information on this legislation, contact Beyond Pesticides or visit the Maryland Pesticide Network website.