Peyton McCaughey, 10, suffered brain damage from toxic gas after his family’s Palm City home was fumigated in August. His parents now say pest control practices need to change.
A state investigation determined a number of things went wrong in order for Peyton to be poisoned. In fact, Florida’s Department of Agriculture revoked the license of Sunland Pest Control, the company sub-contracted by Terminix to do the job.
The Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, also has his inspector general reviewing all safety practices in the fumigation industry. The Contact 5 Investigators went a step further.
“His head would flop side to side,” said Carl.
“He couldn’t stabilize his eyes. He asked if he was going to die at one point,” said Lori.
Now, three months later, Lori and Carl say their son’s recovery is just beginning.
“From the time he gets up, to the time he goes to bed, he needs one of us there,” said Carl.
Lori and Carl say they would gladly trade places with their 10-year-old son if they could.
“If there’s one thing that comes out of this, if there’s one thing people should know, what do you think that is?” asked Contact 5 Investigator Jared Werksma.
“There’s got to be something done to where this can never happen to another family,” said Carl.
That starts by assuring fumigated homes are clear of the toxic gas sulfuryl fluoride.
The investigation done by the Florida Department of Agriculture after Peyton was injured revealed gas monitors used by Sunland Pest Control to ensure the McCaughey’s home was safe to reenter were dilapidated.
In fact, an expert said, “It’s our opinion neither of these (devices) have been working properly in the last year.”
“Do you think a third party should actually come in and check the work of the contractor?” asked Werksma. “That’s one idea,” said Carl.
Another idea is taking an entirely different approach to in home pest control.
“Is thermal pest control as dangerous as sulfuryl fluoride?” asked Werksma. “Not to humans no, absolutely not. It’s just clean heat,” said Scott Gosney of Advanced Pest Control.
Gosney says his crews can heat a house, apartment or even a single room to 160 degrees to kill any pests by simply blowing hot air into the home.
“That’s what people need to know. There are alternatives to fumigation,” said Gosney.
California’s Department of Consumer Affairs touts fumigation and heating as, “The only options that ensure eradication” of termites. However, in Florida the heating process is virtually unheard of.
“Why do you suppose that is?” asked Werksma.
“It’s not cookie cutter, easy pest control,” said Gosney. “For an (average house) we would have four or five people here all day for about 10 hours at least.”
Gosney says it has its price.
“Sulfuryl fluoride is a cheaper process?” Werksma asked.
“It tends to be just because of competition,” said Gosney, who says as thermal pest control becomes more established in Florida, prices will equalize as they have in California.
… “This is an extremely, extremely strong poison. It’s not only used for termites, but it’s also used for rodents, rats and mice. If it’s going to kill a rat and a mouse, it will also kill people,” said Louda.
According to the Department of Agriculture, there were 10,535 reported sulfuryl fluoride fumigations in 2010. By 2014 that number exploded to 63,491…