Fresno family finds DDT in apartment after botched pest control

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A young Fresno family made a frightening find after a major pest control problem at their apartment. An environmental study turned up DDT, the pesticide banned in the 1970s.

The family of five knows they were exposed to dangerous levels of a pesticide known as Cyper TC, which left them scarred and sick. But they say the pest control company tried to hide the truth from them. And when they did their own digging, what they found was even scarier.

There are no signs of life now in the Central Fresno apartment once occupied by Melissa and Bryan Watanabe and their three kids. 18 months ago, they abandoned the place after a botched attempt to control roaches.

"When I walked in it was a musty odor and right away my lungs were burning," said Melissa Watanabe.

The Watanabes knew something was wrong, but the guy from Castech Pest Services who sprayed their home told them it'd all clear up in a few hours.

"Basically, we were told that they oversprayed," Bryan Watanabe said.

"They just said, you know, go right on back into the house and it'll go away," said Ben Tryk, an attorney they've hired to sue Castech.

It didn't go away. Both parents made trips to the emergency room for respiratory and skin issues. Bryan still suffers from discoloration on his shins and occasional, unexplained swelling of his lip.

"It swells, it's swollen and it hurts like crazy," he said.

The Watanabes reported the trouble to Castech and state regulators.

They say the pest control company sent a hazmat team to clean the place up, destroying nearly all their belongings to eliminate the hazard. Turns out, Castech had sprayed the wrong chemical -- and way too much of it. But it was nine days before the boss admitted that to the Watanabes.

"There is a cover-up, we believe, and that's the worst part about it," said John Waterman, Tryk's legal partner.

Fresno County inspectors say Castech's boss probably withheld information and they discovered 20 violations. But the Watanabes also paid for their own environmental study.

"The environmentalist found DDT amongst other chemicals that were used and looking up DDT, it's a Godawful chemical," said Bryan Watanabe.

Fresno County's ag commissioner tells Action News the levels of DDT discovered are fairly low. But the Watanabes believe they're having another baby and since one of the big problems with the chemical is the birth defects it can cause, they're scared of what could happen.

We emailed and called Castech Thursday and a woman there told us their insurance company would call us, but at this point, we haven't heard back.

Fresno County has proposed a fine of almost $15,000, but the company is fighting the enforcement.

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