NEW CITY, N.Y. (CN) – Pesticide exposure from his work with Terminix made a man so sick he couldn’t walk straight, the ex-employee claims in Rockland County Court. The man claims that Terminix used to test its workers’ blood regularly, but stopped doing it in 2001, though it “knew to a substantial certainty that the act of discontinuing testing would lead to poisoning and illness of its employees.”
Louis Plattie Jr. says he started working for Delaware-based Terminix as a pest technician in 1994. In those says, Plattie says, the company checked employees every 1 to 3 months for changes in their cholinesterase levels.
When Terminix “maintained cholinesterase testing, employees who presented abnormally low levels of cholinesterase were prohibited from working with pesticides and/or insecticides until such time as the level of cholinesterase returned to a normal level,” according to the complaint.
Plattie says that people who work with pesticides should be checked every month – every week during the active season – since overexposure can cause a burning sensation in the extremities, irreversible paralysis and organ damage. But the company halted cholinesterase testing in 2001.
“Overexposure to organophosphate and carbonamate insecticides/pesticides can result in cholinesterase inhibition,” according to the complaint. “These insecticides/pesticides combine with acetylcholinesterase at nerve endings in the brain and nervous system, and with other types of cholinesterase found in the blood. This allows acetylcholine to build up, while protective levels of the cholinesterase enzyme decrease. The more cholinesterase levels decrease, the more likely symptoms of poisoning from cholinesterase inhibiting pesticides are to show.”
Plattie says a neurologist diagnosed him with myasthenia gravis in 2007. He was unable to walk in a straight line; his legs would cross, and he had no balance. Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease characterized by weakness in voluntary muscles, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Plattie says he was also diagnosed with neuropathy and “Stiff Man Syndrome.”
The NINDS says stiff-person syndrome is a rare disorder that affects twice as many women as men and is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, anxiety or another illness.
“The disorder is characterized by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms,” according to NINDS. “Abnormal postures, often hunched over and stiffened, are characteristic of the disorder. People with SPS [stiff person syndrome] can be too disabled to walk or move, or they are afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a horn, can trigger spasms and falls.”
Plattie says his injuries “have affected every aspect of his life.”
“He is unable to walk with a normal gait, cannot drive an automobile, is unable to work, has difficulty breathing, has cardiac difficulties, suffers from a loss of vision and is unable to have sexual relations,” according to the complaint.
Plattie and his wife seek $7.5 million in damages from Terminix and six companies that manufacture toxic pesticides: Paragon Professional Pest Control, Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories, AGR EVO USA, Bayer Environmental Science, Sygenta Crop Protection and Dow Agro Sciences.
The Platties are represented by Barry Haberman.