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Foul Smell: Stink Explained, Concerns Raised

You're not alone if you smelled an unpleasant odor in Tampa and beyond Thursday morning. Here's what's been reported, and some community reactions.

The stink you've been smelling in Eastern Hillsborough County? No, the unusual smell was not from a gas leak, but from a pesticide sprayed that officials say have no known health hazards, according to a news alert issued by police and health officials today, Thursday, Sept. 5.

But that's where the conversation on Facebook begins, not ends, as people are raising a stink about what one person called, "the oddest smell."

According to a TBO.com report, the "stinky aroma" that "settled on streets in and around downtown Tampa" could be traced to "a pesticide spray that was sprayed on strawberry fields in eastern Hillsborough County."

Ted Campbell, director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association in Plant City, is quoted in the Tribune report as saying: "It's fumigation season. We're using Paladin now. It's actually very effective, but it really stinks." Reportedly, Paladin "is safer for the aquifer and dissipates more quickly as the season wears on."


The Sept. 5 release sent by the Tampa Police Department reads as follows:

  • "Tampa Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County Health Department have determined the unusual odor in the air this morning in Tampa is NOT a health risk.  A pesticide that was sprayed in Eastern Hillsborough County is causing the odor. The pesticide is called Paladin and contains Dimethyl Disulfide. Other than the unpleasant odor, there are no known health hazards."

A subsequent alert, issued by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, reads as follows:

  • Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is one of the many agencies involved in the on-going investigation of strong sulfur type odors from the east part of the County. We have received updated reports from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County. Please see the FAQ on Dimethyl Disulfide that the FDACS provided. We will continue to coordinate closely with FDACS and the other agencies involved."

Update: Yet another update was issued Sept. 5, this one at 4:24 p.m., from Tampa Fire Rescue:

  • "Environmental investigators have confirmed that the odorous smell was from a release of the chemical Paladin. This chemical pesticide was used in eastern Hillsborough County by strawberry growers.   Product application is expected to be ongoing for another week.   Detectable fumes and odors have diminished significantly, and residents in the City of Tampa have not been directlyexposed or in any immediate danger."

Assurances aside, that "there are no known health hazards," is not comforting news to many, according to Facebook chatter today. " "No known' is they key phrase," wrote one poster, about his concerns. "What type of pesticide and exactly where?" wrote another. "It smelled funny in the Riverview/Apollo area."

In her Facebook post, Kerri McDougald said to "thank your local strawberry growers, who use pesticides away above the norm." She claimed to have called the strawberry growers association, and that she was told the pesticide was approved by the FDA. But nevertheless, McDougald wrote: "Dimethyl sulfide is highly flammable and [an] irritant to eyes and skin. It is harmful if swallowed and has an unpleasant odor at even extremely low concentrations. Its ignition temperature is 205 °C. Why would we want [to] eat something that is harmful if swallowed on our strawberries?"

Another poster, named Matthew, quoted from the Environmental Protection Agency, to which he also gave the link from which he drew his information. He wrote:

  • "The odor of DMDS has been described in the literature as pungent garlic, propane, decaying fish, or decomposing materials. A literature review conducted by the registrant suggests that the mean odor threshold for DMDS is 7 to 12 ppb (0.007 - 0.012 ppm), which is approximately three orders of magnitude below the concentration at which nasal irritation is observed in rodent inhalation studies. This suggests that individuals near a treated field are likely to detect the odor of DMDS before it reaches a concentration at which it would begin to produce nasal irritation. However, the time required for a person to detect the odor and the variability and aversion to the odor among various individuals is not currently known for DMDS." 

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What's your take on the pesticide spray and odor? Let us know in the comment box below.

Heather Michael September 06, 2013 at 06:42 AM
So interesting that I just happened to wake up with my eye swelled shut and my face I've felt like scratching off . I walked outside and thought my husband had sprayed round up all over . I've lived here since I was 3 & have never encountered this !
J September 06, 2013 at 07:24 AM
I'm a little sick and tired of all these problems strawberry farmers cause...sink holes, poisons in their "fumigation"...over it.
Jen Frost September 06, 2013 at 08:49 AM
At the very least, the farmers should have provided advanced notice to the local authorities that this spraying would possibly affect the local area's air quality (smell). While agriculture is a very important part of our economy in Hillsborough County, some of the farmers need to take environmental responsibility more seriously.
Joanna MaGrath September 12, 2013 at 09:26 AM
Please Filed a Complaint with FDACS - FL Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services - George Hayslip - 850-617-7870 if you experience any negative side effects from being exposed to Paladin Dimethyl Disulfide a/k/a DMDS for agricultural soil fumigation a Methyl-Bromide Replacement Candidate. aNewsReporter.com
Diana Cessna September 19, 2013 at 10:03 AM
Smelled pretty bad on my morning run today. Are they at it again? I'm not happy about the disruption in my fresh air.

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