February 24, 2015 3:12 pm
Updated: February 24, 2015 11:27 pm

Official says insecticide pellets in Alberta apartment became deadly when vacuumed

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WATCH ABOVE: The siblings accidentally poisoned by a pesticide in a Fort McMurray apartment remain in hospital, and two of them are getting worse. Jessica Kent reports.

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – An investigator says insecticide pellets placed throughout a northern Alberta apartment to kill bed bugs became deadly when a tenant took out her vacuum.

An eight-month-old baby died and four other children remain in hospital after falling ill over the weekend in Fort McMurray.

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The condition of the two children who were airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton remains grave. In fact, they are both getting worse and are now on ventilators. The other two children are in hospital in Fort McMurray. They are getting better and are now “under observation”, according to the RCMP.

READ MORE: One child dead, four others hospitalized; phosphine detected in Fort McMurray apartment

Deputy fire chief Brad Grainger says the family had recently brought a type of aluminum phosphide back from a trip to Pakistan.

He says the green tablets were placed around the apartment, particularly in one bedroom, to try to kill bed bugs.

When the mother vacuumed the floor, he says, some of the toxic material was disturbed, broke down and became airborne.

The incident happened at Hearthstone Manor, a four-story apartment building at 81 Fraser Ave., near downtown Fort McMurray.

The Canadian Grain Commission says aluminum phosphide is typically used on farms to get rid of insects in grain bins, but must be handled by trained people wearing protective gear.

“If you use it in a closed space like this, it’s very toxic,” explained James Kehrer, a toxicologist with the University of Alberta. “It can affect the nerve terminals and cause some abnormal function there.

“There can be some, obviously, we saw some lethal effects, but there can be some long-term effects on the liver, heart and kidney.”

Regional Emergency Services and the RCMP performed air quality testing Tuesday morning to make sure there’s no long-term residual chemical in the unit.

The unit recorded an air quality result of zero parts per million of phosphine. Less than 15 minutes of exposure to phosphine with an air quality reading of 1.0 ppm is regarded as acceptable, while exposure of eight hours would be acceptable at 0.3 ppm. A person’s life would be immediately in dangerous with exposure of 50 ppm.

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