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Final patient released after chemical exposure

Posted: January 2, 2011 2:32 p.m.
Updated: January 3, 2011 5:00 a.m.

An 11-year-old boy who along with a group of deer hunters was exposed to an agricultural pesticide in Lee County was released Friday morning after an overnight stay at KershawHealth.

The contamination incident began around 2 p.m. Thursday when the group’s hunting dogs ate and rolled in a chemical substance known as Temik, according to Lorone Washington, MD, medical director for the KershawHealth emergency department. Some of the dogs subsequently became ill and were taken to a Bishopville veterinarian. Four of the dogs died.

Exposure to Temik can affect the nervous system, Washington said, and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, increased secretions and trouble breathing. Atropine, a medication commonly used for cardiac patients, is used to counter the effects of the chemical, he said.

The 11-year-old and three adults arrived at the KershawHealth Medical Center emergency room around 4 p.m. The boy, who was experiencing mild symptoms consistent with chemical exposure, had reportedly eaten some candy while out in the field, Washington said, and that contact could have been a source of contamination for him.

The hunters brought a sample of the chemical substance with them and it was identified as Temik within 30 minutes. Judy Ferrell, KershawHealth marketing/public relations managers, said the substance was not brought into the health facility.

KershawHealth went on lockdown at 5:52 p.m. to prevent the possibility of contamination. Emergency procedures were initiated, with decontamination tents set up outside, Washington said. In all, 13 patients were decontaminated, evaluated and treated. Four KershawHealth employees -- members of the decontamination team -- were also routinely decontaminated

All of the adult patients were released Thursday evening. The 11 year-old boy was admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and further testing, Washington said.

Ferrell said emergency procedures ensured there was no danger to anyone in the medical center. Normal operations within the hospital continued throughout the afternoon and the lockdown was lifted at 6:30 p.m.

Washington said the contamination could have been much more serious and, in fact, fatal.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Lee County officials reported to the contamination site in Lee County to locate the chemicals and arrange for cleanup, according to Dennis Ray, public information officer for the Kershaw County Emergency Operations Center. Ray said the operations center, coordinated by the county’s emergency preparedness director, Gene Faulkenberry, was activated throughout the event and coordinated communications between the agencies involved.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer of Temik, reached an agreement last year to end the use of the pesticide. A risk assessment conducted by the EPA indicated the chemical no longer meets food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children. The company will voluntarily phase out production by December 2014.

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