Parks worker resigns in wake of fatal paraquat poisoning accident

Paraquat theft from council stores leads to death of Sheffield resident

A parks worker has resigned pending a dismissal hearing after he stole paraquat that was responsible for the death of Sheffield resident Mark Langton. Sheffield City Council gardener Gary Knight stole 250ml of paraquat from council stores, transferring it to an opaque drinks bottle for use on a friend’s patio. But it passed between four people before it was placed in the fridge of Carol Langton. Her son, 35 year-old father of six Mark Langton mistook the paraquat for a soft drink. The liquid is thought only to have touched his lips but was enough to cause abdominal pain. He died three weeks later in intensive care of respiratory failure stemming from paraquat poisoning. Head of parks, woodlands and countryside Martin Page said: “The systems which the council had in place at the time of the incident were considered by the Health & Safety Executive to be adequate and within the legal requirements for the safe storage of this particular substance. It is the case that this herbicide was stolen from that safe storage by an ex-employee.” The council has now changed pesticides operations. Only staff in supervisory positions have access to pesticide stores and are keeping more detailed records of usage. Court action taken against Knight saw him fined £250 on two occasions. The council is urging other authorities to review their pesticide storage and usage procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring. # The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) launches a report this week seeking a worldwide ban on the use of paraquat. Paraquat: Unacceptable Health Risks for Users calls on the herbicide’s main producer, Syngenta, to stop production and take the product off the market. Syngenta said the chemical does not pose a risk to users when correctly used. A representative said: “We spend millions on product safety and user safety advice. # For a copy of the report, visit www.stop-paraquat.net.

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