|Restaurants, hotels and health care|
facilities might have been treated with
Used safely, as directed, Fipronil can be a game changer in the elimination of pests, especially ants.
The product works so well that it has to be diluted and combined with water when its sprayed as Termidor. It also comes with a long list of use restrictions backed by federal law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists Fipronil as a "possible human carcinogen," meaning it has the potential to cause cancer.
Termidor is only approved for outdoor use in areas far away from humans and animals. Using it indoors around children whose immune systems are still developing is of particular concern, the EPA noted.
But, in early 2012, state regulators began getting tips from whistle blowers alleging that wasn't what was happening in the field, and that the pesticides were being used indoors.
Last summer, investigators from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist (OISC), based at Purdue University, opened their first Fipronil case file, and began gathering samples across the state.
Swabs were taken inside restaurant kitchens and retirement homes, churches and health clinics, hotels and even grocery stores.
From Mooresville to Muncie, Bloomington, Greenwood, Indianapolis and dozens of other Central Indiana cities, nearly every test so far has come back positive for Fipronil.
OISC and the EPA are still gathering evidence on the effects of long term exposure to Fipronil, but both agencies are concerned by their findings so far.
The state fined one company, Ecolab, $18,000 for violations of Fipronil use. A settlement was recently reached requiring the company to pay $9,000 of that fine.
But Ecolab isn't the only company now accused of illegally applying Fipronil indoors.
State investigators are now tracking at least three additional active cases.
Investigators are also asking for the public’s help. Those looking to hire a pest control company should
- ask if they are licensed with the state and the appropriate agency
- get two or three references and use them
- check the accuracy of what they have been told
The state’s ultimate goal is to cut the risk of indoor Fipronil use to zero.
Editor's note: This article has been edited for length.