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Accidental Poisoning from insecticide: The affects of human dermal absorption with oxydemeton-methyl (Metasystox-R).

Updated on May 21, 2012

Drip Zone application area for systemic injections


In 1988 I was working as a maintenance helper for a Lawn and Landscape (Pesticide Application) Company in Washington State.

During most of my time working for this company I was just a shop maintenance person.

(Read that:Personal Groundskeeper and Office Janitor) I

A Friend of mines Dad had watched me grow up through the years and after I got out of the Army, my friend who also worked for his dad, talked both his dad and I into a working relationship that would provide me with training in the industry. I would learn allot in the next year... Everything from Equipment Maintenance to a sound base of Plant, Insect and Disease Control knowledge. The Ultimate goal being Pesticide Licenses and a lucrative Job working with my friend and his family...

They knew allot about the business and the many hazards that went with.. First hand from years of mistakes and hard lessons learned. I on the other hand only knew the hazards in theory. It was still some time before I would learn just how serious a mistake with the chemicals we were working with could be.

My duties around the shop were pretty simple... I leaned to rebuild some of the Pumps, plumbing and devices that were common to the trade.. repairing hoses and sometimes fixing pvc pipe linkages that were designed to "Blow out" in an emergency so that more expensive parts could be saved... and of course when ever a truck had such a misshap, the crew would return to the shop and take the rest of the day off... (Paid) while yours truly fixed the problem and got everything ready for the next days work.

Mostly I just did allot of cleaning...

Now in those days their were certain devices used that I cannot even find photos of anymore. One of these devices was a Manual Pump type of Tree Root Injector... It was used to inject a very concentrated Systemic Insecticide (known as Metasystox R) into the root zone that surrounds large trees. These large trees were at times so tall... or so near to bodies of water that there was no way to use High Pressure Tree Guns that shoot a pesticide stream up to the top of them.... Drift and over-spray were a very high priority concern to us... Often times In these cases (Depending on the type of tree etc) the men would inject a concentrate into the area at the base of the tree where the tree sucks up most of its water from... and in turn the tree itself would take in the Insecticide and then trans-locate the pesticide to all parts of the tree. (End of the Bug Problem for a whole year...)

It was a Great system... But as with anything that works.. Ignorance and Human error can cause all sorts of problems when you put the two together.

I was a new employee... and like most young people I tried to get the cleaning jobs done as fast as possible in order to get along with something more interesting... or go home early...

Since I was the first one to arrive every day.. (Opening the shop and cleaning the office ) and usually the last one to go home, (after reparing the equipment) the thought of getting my chores completed and having some free time may well have motivated me in the wrong directions at times...

After the sprayers had come in one day, I noticed a puddle under one of the trucks... sort of an oily substance.. Ok... pump is leaking a little... So I cleaned it up... Cat litter.. dust pan.. then there was more... drip.. drip... drip.

So I cleaned it up again and went looking for the source... The drip seemed to be coming from a place where equipment was stored... so I opened it up and looked... I found it, it was a huge Hypodermic Needle looking thing that was big enough to make King Kong run for his life... and it was steadily dripping from its lock box down onto the truck bed and from the truck bed to the floor.

There was not only a mess on the floor.. but a substantial amount of the spilled liquid on the bed and plating under the tank...

Well allot more clean up ensued.. during which time some of the "rinse water" soaked into my leather tennis shoes.

I cleaned up the mess... went home and did not give it another thought...

For the next few days my health started to decline and I got a whale of a headache. I still went to work and was miserable... At some point people were worried about me and one of them noticed that my shoes smelled of one of the Pesticides we worked with but which one was it???

They asked... and I took it off... we all sniffed it... "oh.. that's the Metasystox... it's from a drip I cleaned up the other day"

Well the Nike's went in the trash can... I got Cleaned up and sent to the Doctor for tests... and then I was under observation for several days... I had to have several tests done for my cholinesterase levels.... and could not work until the levels started returning to normal. My headache got better almost immediately... the rest of me got better as time went on. It just took some time for my body to clean out all of the Junk that I had allowed to absorb through my feet by constantly wearing the same usually wet tennis shoes that were soaked in pesticide.

Dermal Absorption is a real Threat... By hands.. by feet... by eyes... top of scalp...

It was like I had not only got it on me when I cleaned up the mess... But that I kept reapplying that junk to my feet every day 10 -12 hours per day for a week... or two... Every time I wore those shoes... I got another dermal dose.

Now you may not work with Pesticides... But you probably have Chemicals that you are in contact with frequently...

I want to caution you... Do not take things for granted... Chemicals can kill. But they can also give you Cancer and other problems that are not so immediately known or noticed. Problems that can sneak up on you over time if your not careful.

In my case... I got over it once the shoes were tossed out... and I learned my lesson for the most part... I was far more careful of the chemicals I was working around after that.. (especially with the ones that were considered more "Dangerous."

Be alert to Clothes.. and shoes that get contaminated by Chemicals... don't just wash them... Throw them away. If water could have cleaned those would have. I had been in plenty of water with them.. but the chemicals kept leaching out of the leather and into my feet.

Time however.. will heal most wounds and Time will also help your body to shake off things like this...

But Safety... and wearing the right shop Protective equipment could have prevented the whole problem to begin with.

An ounce of Prevention.. is worth a ton of cure. Wear your Rubber Boots... Wear your Chemical Gloves... Goggles... Etc..... Before you clean up or otherwise handle the Chemicals.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This is both street smart and intlilegent.


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