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Six in Family Sickened, Possibly by Mint Leaves

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by ICT Bill, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    From the Washington post today, a family in Gaitherburg MD, read down

    When Satnam Singh's Indian American relatives gathered for dinner Tuesday night in Gaithersburg, they shared a typical meal, including a potato stew flavored with mint.

    What happened later was far from typical. Singh woke to find six members of his extended family in medical distress: nauseated, disoriented and worsening quickly.

    "When I was awoken, they were already quite ill," Singh said yesterday in an interview at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where his wife was among six people in intensive care, all victims of what authorities described as a rare case of mass accidental poisoning. "They were hallucinating," he said. "They didn't know where they were."

    Four of the six were listed in critical but stable condition yesterday. Doctors said they expect all to recover.

    According to Montgomery County officials, the culprit might have been pesticide on homegrown mint leaves that a family member plucked from a front-yard garden and dropped into the meal's stew. The six, who ranged in age from 20 to 70 years, became ill after eating the stew at the townhouse in the 1000 block of Travis Lane, according to county fire and rescue spokesman Pete Piringer. The six became lethargic, and as the night wore on, they experienced a variety of symptoms, including heart palpitations, vomiting, sweating and loss of consciousness.

    Six people who had not eaten the stew, including Singh, were not affected.

    "It appears as though the people that liked the stew and ate more of it are a little bit worse off than the others," Piringer said.

    An ambulance was summoned about 1 a.m. to the address in the Montgomery Meadows complex just off Watkins Mill Road, Piringer said. When medics realized the scale of the problem, they called for more help, including a hazardous materials crew to rule out carbon monoxide poisoning.

    After interviewing family members, rescue workers looked to the food the victims had eaten. The symptoms, which match those of poisoning by organophosphate pesticide, led investigators to focus on fresh produce and the mint leaves in particular.

    "The leading theory is that there may have been a pesticide on this particular plant," Piringer said. "The plant may not have been washed properly."

    Blood samples from the patients, along with samples of the stew and mint leaves, were taken to a state medical laboratory yesterday afternoon. Because of the unusual nature of the analysis, it could be several days before results are available, county health officials said.

    "They usually test for salmonella and E. coli and organic pathogens," said Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery Department of Health and Human Services. "Testing for poisons and chemicals is not something they normally do. There are more questions than answers at this point."
  2. Daner

    Daner LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,308

    I would say that the leading theory will probably end up being the right one...the first thing that came to my mind was just that...It was sprayed with some kind of pesticide....or a over spray of something like estaprop (poison)...washing may help...but there could be traces of what ever left on the plant.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    I thought it was an interesting thing to bring up especially for the chem heads. Who knows who sprayed the stuff but if it was chemlawn or someone like that I'll bet they are going to get a bill for the hospital and probably a law suite.

    I wonder if there was a little yellow sign in the yard??? they say don't walk in the yard but nothing about eating the yard

    Nasty stuff, I didn't think organophosphate pesticides were still around but I'm not a pesticide guy. Must be strong stuff, to be mixed in a stew and still have that effect
  4. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    Why is it always "chemlawn this chemlawn that... " jeese you guys got wood for anyone that sprays a chemical.

    What if indian joe planted the mint and drove down to the local hardware store garden center and bought some bug killer and sprayed it himself. What if he bought the plant from a garden center in which the plants had been treated previously.

    What if Indian joe's wife had washed the fruit/veg ect prior to using them....You know common sense....
  5. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    since you are not a chem guy, here is some info about organophosphates

    Organophosphate pesticides degrade rapidly by hydrolysis on exposure to sunlight, air, and soil, although small amounts can be detected in food and drinking water. Their ability to degrade made them an attractive alternative to the persistent organochloride pesticides, such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin. Although organophosphates degrade faster than the organochlorides, they have greater acute toxicity, posing risks to people who may be exposed to large amounts (see the Toxicity section below).

    Commonly used organophosphates have included parathion, malathion, methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, phosmet, tetrachlorvinphos, and azinphos methyl.
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    actually chemlawn does not exist anymore i do believe, they are called trugreen. I just use it as a general name for the chem guys

    I'm not anti chem, just right stuff at the right time this family obviously had bad timing, like I said who knows who put it down

    sorry if I got your panties in a bunch

    Marc, you should see the program Vassar college is using, they are now going campus wide with our products, National Cathedral is on it too as well as Georgetown Prep
  7. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    So are these used to kill everything in the area of application or are they pest specific

    i was thinking of these guys,organochlorides and thought had been done away with, when in fact they have
  8. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    I OP have been heavly restricted in the residential market. Only in Agriculture are they still fairly wide spread. But if a person who still has OP's in their inventory and still maintain the label for that container, they can still apply the OP.

    Trugreen chemlawn is now trugreen landcare or just trugreen... Infact they treat our turf for us 3x a year. I do all my own fert

    now no panties in a wad yet...:)

    I'm open to organic ferts but they are much more labor intensive and the price is still an issue. I can give you an idea of what we apply and you can tailor a program and we go from there if you want...But it need be to granular. I can't be spraying the turf while the kids are roaming around, and I really don't feel like coming it at 1 am to spray the ferts. Thats the nice thing about dry ferts I can do it wout the "chemical stigma" of someone spraying...

    Most OP are broad spectrum. IE bad for beneficial.
  9. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    we got trucks around here that say both. The landcare is the maintance division and the chemlawn is the chems.
  10. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    well we have a similar horror story from a pro , i hope, the county sprayed for mosquito's 4 nights ago, now we have all of our hives dead, reason is they over mixed and gave us a 2x dose, there legal department is so full of bs that i just turned it over to the DOA.

    and if you really want a low cost organic solution, I will get you one, just need soil tests, some pictures of a few lawns and a business description. after that we can lead you to the organic path as fast as you want. Bill has help a lot of people do it also. organics is as profitable or more profitable than any chem program. come on down and see for your self if you don't get it.

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