Daily News Archive
From June 27, 2001

West Nile Virus Pesticide Spraying Sends 37 People to the Hospital at Softball Game

On June 26, 2001, The Post Star reported that 37 young ball players and spectators at a softball game in upstate New York were sent to the hospital after being poisoned by a pesticide being sprayed behind the ballfield to control mosquitoes that could be carrying the West Nile virus. According to Moreau Emergency Squad Captain Andre Delvaux, the Tree Care by Stan Hunt company was applying Fyfanon ULV, a pesticide containing the organophosphate malathion, near the baseball field around 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 25, while a game was in progress.

"It was really bad," Coach Jeff Baker told The Post Star. "The kids got out of the dugout, tried to get some fresh air. We didn't know what it was." Fifteen minutes later, he said, the smell got even worse as a cloud of what looked like some kind of smoke came through the trees. "I can't even describe it. The taste in your mouth, the burning; it just was horrible."

Most of the players, ages 15 and 16, and spectators experienced burning eyes, coughing, wheezing, headaches and nausea. Many experiencing symptoms were taken to the hospital in ambulances. One woman passed out while being interviewed by an emergency medical technician, The Post Star reported.

High doses of malathion may result in incontinence, convulsions or fatality. Studies have also shown the pesticide to cause cancer.

Moreau officials claim the spraying was not scheduled during the game. "I was blown away," Councilman Larry Bulman told The Post Star. "I was shocked that they would do that. That's not what we discussed." Since the poisoning, the town has asked Tree Care by Stan Hunt to halt the spraying, while the incident is investigated. Moreau Supervisor Harry Gutheil said, "I'm very sorry that it happened."