4 children die, 5 others hospitalized from toxic gas poisoning in home

(CNN/WSVN) — Four children died after someone at their home sprayed water on an applied pesticide, causing a reaction that resulted in toxic gas, officials in Amarillo, Texas, said.

At least five other people were hospitalized in Monday’s incident.

Fire Capt. Larry Davis said a family member used water to try to wash off the aluminum phosphide, which had been administered before by someone beneath the residence. The pesticide is used to kill rodents and other pests that can burrow underneath residences.

The pesticide used in the incident, called Weevil-Cide, has a warning label that reads, “The use of this product is strictly prohibited on single or multifamily residential properties and nursing homes, schools, daycare facilities and hospitals.”

Gerald Witkowski, who owns a pest control business in the Amarillo area, said the pesticide becomes dangerous when it comes into contact with moisture.

“It reacts with oxygen and moisture and that causes the chemical to be released, or change into Phosphine gas and Phosphine gas is what kills things in that form,” Witkowski said.

Witkowski said people aren’t supposed to put the pesticide within 100 feet of a home because it could seep into the every opening near the homes to get inside.

The incident preliminarily has been ruled an accidental poisoning.

There were 10 people inside the mobile home at the time of the incident, according to Davis.

The children ranged in age from 7 to 17, CNN affiliate KVII reported.

First responders went to the hospital for treatment of possible exposure. Several firefighters are being held for observation, according to KVII.

Aluminum phosphide is listed in the Toxicity Category I by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — the highest and most toxic category. Specifically, the EPA points to the “acute effects via the inhalation route.”

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