TVNewser Exclusive: Production and technical personnel at Fox News Channel were exposed to diazinon, a neurotoxin class insecticide banned by the EPA for indoor use since the year 2000, according to a complaint now under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
When contacted by TVNewser today, Richard Mendelson, the director of OSHA's office in Manhattan, confirmed said that the network has been contacted regarding the complaint.
"I just pulled the file, and we do have an open complaint against Fox News Channel," he said. "The complaint was lodged on June 10."
A Fox News spokesperson said the company has not been contacted by OSHA, but Mendelson said simply: "They've been contacted." He was unable to share the specifics because it is an open case. But an anonymous tipster filled in the details earlier this week.
"A technical employee was removed by ambulance and hospitalized for several days in March 2005 immediately after untrained building personnel had sprayed the technical employee lounge, unbeknownst to FNC workers on break there," the tipster wrote. "Besides illegal use of a neurotoxin, typical legal requirements that warnings be posted concerning the treatment of areas and the products in use were not being practiced by FNC or the untrained, unlicensed employees."
Mendelson said Fox has been contacted with a non-formal complaint.
"A non-formal complaint consists of a call to the employer followed by a letter," he said. "The turnaround time on that is always less than a day. The employer has to respond back to us within five working days." If the network responds and fixes the problem, they will not receive a citation. But "if the employer ignores us, we're going to go knock on their door," Mendelson said, adding that FNC's deadline for response is June 21.
The New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation may also be involved in the investigation. A call to its media relations department was not returned.
According to the tipster, FNC management claims that the incident was isolated. But the tipster, who is apparently a longtime employee, characterized that as "bullshit." "The same guys have been spraying the same stuff for years and no one would listen when people complained it was making people sick," the e-mail said.
This FAQ by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that "diazinon affects the nervous system. Some mild symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, feelings of anxiety, constriction of the pupils of the eye, and not being able to see clearly. More severe symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, slow pulse, diarrhea, pinpoint pupils, difficulty breathing, and coma."