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September 10, 2001-Workers ill after pesticide applied

September 10, 2001-Workers ill after pesticide applied

The Franklin County offices in Tennessee's Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Children's Services have been forced to relocate after several employees became ill when the building was sprayed for spiders and other insects.

'What we have now is a sick building," said Paul Ladd, director of communications for DHS. 'And we're not going to put people back there until we are sure that the building is safe.' Preliminary lab results indicated the building was sprayed with a double dose of Dursban, a controversial pesticide that has been the subject of numerous lawsuits throughout the country. The product, manufactured by Dow, is being phased out for all but a few applications under an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The offices at 708 S. College St. in Winchester have been leased by the two departments for about 12 years. When managers complained about the bugs to the landlord, Joanne Davis, she sent an employee on Aug. 18 to apply insecticide inside the building while employees were not present. According to Davis, her employee sprayed the facility, having used the product many times before. 'We've never had a problem with it," Davis said.

One week after the office was sprayed, employees complained of a bad smell and eight became ill, primarily with headaches, nausea and upper respiratory irritation. Davis said when she was notified, she tried unsuccessfully to alleviate the problem by changing the filters in the air-conditioning system, shampooing carpets and setting up floor fans to improve the air flow inside the building. 'I did everything they asked me to do," the landlord said. But a few days before Labor Day, the departments decided to transfer their employees to other buildings until the problem at their former site can be solved. Yesterday, state DHS officials said they were vacating the building indefinitely.

'Our paramount issue now is for the health, safety and welfare of our employees. We will not put them back into that building as it is," Ladd said. The 43 state employees have been relocated to two locations. Some are at the Tennessee Vocational Training Center, 135 Baxter Lane in Winchester, while others are in the Lanier Building, 1002 W. Main in Decherd. 'We sent extra office equipment to them because they had to leave everything where it was. All the equipment and the records will have to be cleaned," Ladd said.

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