EPA studies company’s fumigant use

by Joe Carlson

An investigator from the Environmental Protection Agency has been appointed to examine possible mishandlings of a deadly fumigant by a local milling company.
Archer Daniels Midland Milling Co. owns a mill in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood that is under investigation in connection with the death of a man in August from exposure to the fumigant methyl bromide.
Officials at ADM were not available for comment Sunday.
The federal investigator is examining a case in which Minneapolis officials cited the company for improper handling of canisters of the toxic fumigant.
The investigator, who couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday, is looking into charges of label misuse. ADM is accused of not properly following usage and handling guidelines listed on the outsides of canisters of methyl bromide.
Steve Vierling said the investigation was good news to him.
Vierling worked in the mill from 1977 until about 1993, when he was exposed to the fumigant that April.
“It was pure hell,” for almost two years, Vierling said. He experienced common symptoms of exposure to the chemical early on, such as nausea, headaches, dizziness and blurred vision. Vierling said he later lapsed into a coma for about eight hours.
ADM covered his medical expenses, he said, but never formally admitted to the exposure.
Vierling hired a lawyer, but the matter never went to trial because he didn’t have a medical exam within 24 hours of the alleged exposure. According to health experts, methyl bromide leaves the body 24 hours after intake.
Vierling’s story sheds a new light on a civil suit brought by the widow of the man who died last August in a building adjacent to the ADM mill.
Santos Fernandez, 54, was working in his art studio when he died on the night of Aug. 23, the same night the mill was fumigated with the chemical. A report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner later ruled that Fernandez died from exposure to methyl bromide.
The death is still under investigation by state officials.

Editor’s note: An in-depth analysis on ADM’s use of methyl bromide will run in Tuesday’s Daily.