Daily News Archive
From August 30, 2001

Citizens Sue for Damages from Malathion Spraying

A federal class action lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of Tennessee residents who have been harmed by malathion sprayed as part of the state's boll weevil eradication program. According to the Jackson Sun, Covington, TN attorney Houston Gordon, who states the spraying program violates the civil and constitutional rights of residents by subjecting them to the pesticide, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Memphis. The lawsuit names over 40 defendants including state Agriculture Commissioner Dan Wheeler, state administrator Boyd Barker and the Southeastern Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation.
According to the lawsuit, as a result of the spraying, plaintiffs experienced irritation and injury to their eyes, ears, head, lungs, blood, skin, swelling of tissues, suppression of immune systems, loss of enjoyment of life, pharmaceutical costs, and aggravation of preexistent medical conditions as well as pain, suffering, discomfort, fear, anxiety, and displacement. The suit also states that the label instructions were not followed during application and the plaintiffs were driven from their homes and experienced property damages, as a result of the spraying. The plantifs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages as determined by the jury.

Since the lawsuit was filed in early July, more and more residents have been signing on. Lawyers estimate the number of people in the class to exceed 500. "It's about time. I've taken about all of this I can stand," Wayford Washburn told the Jackson Sun. "It's poison. It's killing us all, and something needs to be done about it. If we don't get something done in court, there'll be war right here in West Tennessee." Mr. Washburn says the spraying near his home had made himself, his wife and neighbors sick, and killed his honey bees and a young cow.

The $100 million eradication program, funded mostly by farmers, began last year with the goal of wiping out weevils in 575,000 acres of cotton in West Tennessee. About 100 aircraft and a handful of ground sprayers are being used to apply neurotoxic malathion in repeated doses to the cotton fields, often without consent.