06:43 AM ET 11/15/99 - Pesticide (POISON) Mist Forces Evacuations
EARLIMART, Calif. (AP) _ Mist from a weed-killing pesticide (POISON) blew into this small San Joaquin Valley town, forcing 150 people to evacuate their homes and sending dozens to the hospital.
Twenty-nine people went to hospitals Saturday night complaining of nausea, vomiting, headaches, burning eyes and shortness of breath from exposure to (the "registered" POISON) metam sodium, Tulare County Sheriff's officials said Sunday. Hospital officials said all were treated and released.
Residents were not allowed back into their homes until about 11:30 p.m., some six hours after the leak occurred.
Growers had contracted Shafter-based Wilbur-Ellis Company to spray the chemical (POISON), commonly known as Sectagon 42, to the field using sprinklers.
``It was applied per the directions so I'm not sure how it ended up coming back into town,'' said Tulare County Fire Capt. Patricia Granillo. ``It was just kind of hanging in town once it came in.''
Tulare County agriculture officials were still investigating the leak. Wilbur-Ellis officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday night.
Members of the United Farm Workers said Sectagon is a highly toxic fumigant (POISON) that has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. It is sometimes used instead of methyl bromide (another "registered" POISON) to spray fruits, vegetables and orchard crops, although the field it was applied to Saturday had no crops growing on it, Granillo said.
``Can you imagine over your house a cloud of something that has this kind of potential?'' asked Jocelyn Sherman, a United Farm Workers spokeswoman. ``We don't know what the long-term effects are.''
Earlimart, a town of about 6,000 people, is about 220 miles southeast of San Francisco.
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