Hundreds evacuated in central Mexico after malathion pesticide leak : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Posted at 9:14 a.m. PDT Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Hundreds evacuated in central Mexico after malathion pesticide leak

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Hundreds of people in central Mexico were evacuated and 120 were hospitalized after an accident at a pesticide factory released yellowish clouds of malathion pesticide, local authorities reported Wednesday.

The accident occurred late Tuesday at a plant owned by the Mexican chemical firm Tekchem in the agricultural hub of Salamanca, 200 miles (320) northeast of Mexico City.

``People reported dizziness, vomiting, and skin and eye irritations,'' said Arturo Gutierrez, the civil defense director in Salamanca.

``The gas had a very peculiar smell,'' Gutierrez said. ``The cloud was quite dense and large.''

About 1,100 people were evacuated, with about 500 taken to improvised shelters at government buildings in Salamanca. Most of them were able to return to their homes Wednesday after the two-mile (3 km) wide cloud dispersed.

Thirty-six people remained hospitalized Wednesday, and five of them were under close observation by doctors for more severe reactions to the gas.

Malathion is used in the United States to kill a host of agricultural pests, including mosquitoes. The U.S. Center for Disease Control has said it doesn't pose a serious risk to most people, but the pesticide is suspected of sickening 123 people in Florida in 1999.

Malathion was sprayed over New York City after a summer encephalitis outbreak, and North Carolina used it after Hurricane Floyd left the area a soggy breeding ground for mosquitoes.

However, the quantity and density of the gas cloud involved in Tuesday's accident was apparently far above what people experience in normal spraying of the pesticide.

The accident occurred when emergency valves opened automatically after pressure rose in tanks holding malathion at the plant, Gutierrez said.

In a Wednesday press release, Tekchem did not specify the causes of the accident. The company said no workers were injured, but the plant would be shut down for two days.

Gutierrez said local authorities would carry out a full investigation of the accident ``will look at the plant very closely'' for any safety violations.

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 13, 2000

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