Texas Department of Agriculture Statement on Amarillo Pesticide Poisoning (1/3/2017)

In response to the pesticide poisoning deaths of four children in Amarillo, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller today reminds consumers of the dangers of restricted use pesticides and the importance of hiring licensed pesticide applicators to avoid similar accidents. 

“The deaths of these children are a terrible tragedy and my prayers go out to this family and their loved ones,” Commissioner Miller said. “Unfortunately, this tragic situation only serves as a reminder to all Texans to be extremely cautious around any pesticide and to rely upon a state-licensed professional for your pest control needs. There is a system in place to ensure your family’s safety, but it begins with consumer awareness and education.”

According to reports, the pesticide applied under the Amarillo house was pelleted aluminum phosphate, a powerful agricultural pesticide that was never meant for consumer or residential use.  The product is clearly labeled as limited for use only by a licensed professional applicator.  The label contains skull and crossbones, a commonly recognized symbol for poison.

In Texas, all pest control is regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture.  Regulations cover both agricultural and structural pest control.  Agricultural pesticide regulation pertains to crops, livestock and in some cases, lawn and ornamental shrubs.  Structural pest control is the application of pesticides in and around buildings including dwellings, buildings where food is prepared, stored or purchased, and other public buildings like schools and healthcare facilities.  The science of structural pest control is highly regulated because of its close proximity to people and pets.  Before an individual can be licensed, they must pass a criminal background check, receive training and pass a test.  Even then they may only operate under the supervision of an experienced certified applicator.  Pest control companies are also required to be licensed, insured and are subject to periodic inspections.  All pest control applicators are required to take annual training to ensure they are up to date on the latest scientific research regarding pesticide application and possible issues.

Commissioner Miller also made a distinction between restricted-use pesticides and consumer household pesticides. 

“We all buy pesticides at our local hardware store to use in our homes and gardens,” Commissioner Miller said. “To be clear, these are NOT restricted-use pesticides like caused the tragic deaths in Amarillo. However, even when using these consumer-grade pesticides, please read the instructions carefully, follow directions and look for safety information on the label.”

“Obviously, we encourage everyone to use a licensed, trained and insured pest control professional for their pest control needs,” said Don Ward, Executive Director of the Texas Pest Control Association. “However, if you need to do it yourself, please read the label on the product to ensure that it is approved for home use and only use it according to the label.”

A list of licensed pest control professionals can be found on the Texas Pest Control Association web site at www.texaspest.org or on the Texas Department of Agriculture website at www.texasagriculture.gov.  For anyone who discovers a restricted use pesticide with a skull and crossbones label that indicates poison, please call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for further information.