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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Takes Action Against Illegal Methyl Bromide Use in Puerto Rico

Contact Information: 
Brenda Reyes (reyes.brenda@epa.gov)
o John Martin (martin.johnj@epa.gov)

(New York, N.Y.) As part of its ongoing work to address the illegal use of toxic pesticides containing methyl bromide in the Caribbean, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued legal complaints against two individuals and a pest control company in Puerto Rico for violating federal pesticides law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA) and the Clean Air Act. From 2013 to early 2015, Edwin Andujar Bermudez, doing business as Truly Nolen Pest Control De Caguas, and Wilson J. Torres Rivera, the owner of Tower & Son Exterminating, Corp., fumigated residences and other unauthorized locations in several Puerto Rico municipalities with pesticides containing methyl bromide. The use of methyl bromide is restricted in the U.S. due to its acute toxicity and because it is an ozone-depleting substance. As certified applicators, Mr. Andujar and Mr. Torres face civil penalties under FIFRA, as does Mr. Torres' company. Mr. Andujar and Tower & Son Exterminating, Corp. additionally face civil penalties under the Clean Air Act.

"Protecting people's health in Puerto Rico is of paramount importance," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "Pesticides can be very toxic. Applying methyl bromide products in homes is dangerous and against federal law."

The health effects of exposure to methyl bromide are serious and include headaches, dizziness, weakness and confusion. In severe cases exposure can cause central nervous system and respiratory system damage. Only certified applicators are allowed to use methyl bromide in certain approved locations and for purposes specified on a given product's label; methyl bromide products are not allowed to be used in dwellings. The labels for methyl bromide pesticides also require compliance with specific monitoring, health and safety, and storage instructions. The EPA has been focused on compliance with federal pesticides laws and the Clean Air Act in the Caribbean following an incident in March, 2015, when a family vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands fell gravely ill after being exposed to methyl bromide that was sprayed in a resort condo unit below theirs.

From March to October of 2015, investigators from the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and the EPA conducted inspections at M & P Pest Control, Inc., a pesticide distributor in San Juan, and at the facilities of various pesticide applicators in Puerto Rico to collect information regarding the purchase and use of pesticides containing methyl bromide. The investigation revealed that Mr. Andujar had purchased Meth-O-Gas Q, which contains Methyl Bromide, from M & P and had, on numerous occasions, improperly applied it in residences and other unauthorized locations and without following specific instructions and restrictions on the label.

The investigation further revealed that Tower & Son Exterminating had also purchased Meth-O-Gas Q, from M & P and that Mr. Torres and his company had, on numerous occasions, improperly applied it in residences and other unauthorized locations and without following specific instructions and restrictions on the label. In addition, the investigation revealed that Mr. Torres and his company had improperly stored cylinders of the pesticide in a storage area that was neither secured nor well-ventilated.

The EPA's complaints allege that Mr. Andujar, Mr. Torres, and Mr. Torres' company violated federal pesticide law by using a registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label, and that Mr. Andujar and Tower & Sons Exterminating violated the Clean Air Act by failing to comply with that law's recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Under the Clean Air Act, applicators of methyl bromide must collect and maintain documentation and make certified representations regarding their intended use of this pesticide.

Products used to kill pests must be registered with the EPA to ensure that they are safe and effective for approved uses and contain labels with detailed instructions to minimize the potential for exposure and adverse impacts to humans or the environment from their use. Applicators of restricted use pesticides (RUPs) such as those containing methyl bromide require specialized training before purchasing pesticides and need to thoroughly understand and comply with the specific instructions and restrictions on the label to ensure that the pesticide is used safely and effectively.

For more information on the EPA's regulation of pesticides, visit: http://epa.gov/pesticides

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