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Girls' deaths need answers

Published: Saturday, Feb. 13 2010 12:24 a.m. MST

Hazmat teams check around the Toone home in Layton Monday. Pesticide fumes are being blamed for the deaths of two girls.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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The deaths of Rebecca Toone, 4, and her baby sister Rachel Toone, 15 months, are simply heartbreaking. The little girls died after toxic pesticide fumes drifted into their Layton home last weekend.

Authorities believe the toxic gas phosphine entered the home after an exterminator reportedly dropped Fumitoxin pellets into burrow holes in the family's yard. The Toones had hired the exterminator to kill voles, which are small rodents.

An investigation is under way. Criminal charges could be leveled in connection with the girls' deaths. We anxiously await the word from Davis County prosecutors.

Equally important are the lessons that should be learned regarding the choice and application of this particular pesticide in residential neighborhoods. The public should have more information regarding the training and certification of people who conduct this type of work, although records indicate Bugman, the extermination company that conducted the work, has been cited for only minor violations.

Still, many questions remain regarding the choice of this particular pesticide in residential neighborhoods. It is legal for that use but not commonly used for that purpose, a state regulator told the Deseret News. It is typically used to eliminate insect pests from grain silos. In light of these events, the state may want to consider stricter regulations regarding its application.

Absent that, industry representatives may want to suspend its use until more information can be gathered about this incident.

This was a horrific tragedy. Concrete steps by prosecutors, state regulators and the industry itself are required to eliminate the possibility of another such event in the future.

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