A Canadian mom was trying to kill bed bugs by fumigating her apartment with a chemical she brought from Pakistan. Instead, she killed her 8-month-old baby and left her other four children in critical condition, the NY Daily News reports.
The mother was using an agricultural pesticide to get rid of the bed bug infestation in the family’s Fort McMurray, Alberta, apartment.
The substance, which is strictly controlled in Canada and requires special training to use, releases phosphine gas when exposed to air. The gas is not only colorless and odorless but also extremely toxic, the Daily Mail reports.
After just a few hours of fumigation, all five children in the home showed signs of serious illness.
According to the firefighters, a reading of 1 part per million can be hazardous, and it only takes 15 minutes to reach that level. The reading in the bedroom was at a staggering 4 parts per million. The substance becomes immediately lethal at 5.
“There was significant exposure,” one emergency worker said.
All five children were vomiting, but they were not taken to the hospital until the next morning.
The mother’s 8-month-old baby died at the hospital on Sunday. The other four, aged between 2 and 7 years, remain in critical condition.
Wood Buffalo RCMP Cpl. George Cameron said that the incident appears to be an accidental poisoning. The mother’s sister, Shazia Yarkhan, also stated that it was an accident.
“She just wanted to kill bugs, and she put some medicine over there in (the) apartment because she complained to the apartment caretaker and she didn’t respond to anything,” Yarkan told CTV Edmonton.
Officials said that the pesticide was brought into Canada illegally from Pakistan, where the family had vacationed. The dangerous fumigant was found in an unlabeled container.
“It will kill the bed bugs, but it’s nasty stuff,” toxicologist James Kehrer told the Edmonton Journal. “Children are more susceptible to these things ... It should only be used by a professional."