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Pest control workers’ deaths linked to chemical exposure, Broward medical examiner’s report shows

Pompano Beach, Florida – In a tragic incident that unfolded in April at a furniture warehouse in Pompano Beach, two employees from Anderson Pest Control lost their lives, while a third was hospitalized. A recent report from a Broward medical examiner stated that one worker succumbed to the “acute toxic effects” of a chemical used in the pest control gas.

In light of the unfortunate event, the report revealed that a chemical firm that supplied the gas to Anderson Pest Control informed state investigators that there was a potential mishandling of over 100 gas canisters. However, the report does not clarify whether this mishandling might have contributed to the fatalities or if the company is under scrutiny.

Leon Johnson, aged 64, was found lifeless in a truck near his Hollywood apartment on the night of April 22nd. Earlier that day, he, along with two other employees, had been involved in a fumigation task at a Baer’s Furniture warehouse in Pompano Beach. A second employee from Boynton Beach also died later that day. Anderson Pest Control’s owner, Cris Anderson, who partook in the fumigation, was hospitalized subsequently.

Reacting to the report, Johnson’s wife, Demetra Smith, expressed disbelief, as she described her husband as someone who exercised great caution in his work. According to the medical examiner’s report, Johnson was found unresponsive in his truck, with a “Danger Deadly Poison” sign in the back window. Although initial chemical tests on the truck were negative, further investigation revealed the poison to be sulfuryl fluoride, a gas frequently used in fumigation.

When investigators contacted Anderson, who was in intensive care at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, he recounted the events leading to the fumigation and the ensuing health complications that the team experienced. The three men had been working for over 30 hours prior to the fumigation and began the process early at 3 a.m.

After experiencing bouts of vomiting and illness, the men concluded the fumigation by early afternoon, after which they further deteriorated. Subsequent to the fumigation, Anderson was hospitalized. He stated to investigators that he had been handling pesticides throughout his life without incident.

During the course of the investigation, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services informed the medical examiner investigators that Anderson Pest Control’s gas supplier had received over 100 canisters with open valves, raising the suspicion of mishandling.

It remains uncertain how the exposure to the deadly gas occurred, and the investigation into the death of the second worker continues. Following the incident, the Baer’s Furniture warehouse was temporarily evacuated as a safety measure, but it was cleared for operation within an hour.

Raymond Simpson

Raymond Simpson is a California native, a longtime Coral Springs resident, and the Editor at TSFD. He lives with his family in Coral Springs, where you can find him on weekends running – literally running – with his two golden retrievers.

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