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Residents say chemical spray is making them sick; state and Miami-Dade County investigate

State and Miami-Dade investigate neighborhood chemical spraying that residents say makes them sick
State and Miami-Dade investigate neighborhood chemical spraying that residents say makes them sick

MIAMI – Last week, Local 10 News reported on Brickell Key residents who say the chemicals a community association is using as part of their COVID-19 sanitation response is making them sick.

Now, regulators from Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida are investigating.

The chemicals are being sprayed along the community’s Baywalk and grass.

Cynthia Munix says she “experienced a severe redness and dryness of my eyes” from the chemicals, while fellow resident Priscilla Colon says it even affects her dog Astro.

“We wake up every single more with nausea and acid reflux,” Colon said.

Miami-Dade County Environmental Resources Management came in for an inspection Wednesday and issued no notices.

Local 10 has also learned that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services launched an investigation related to the association’s use of the product Virex Plus in its outdoor areas.

In a statement, the Brickell Key Master Association tells Local 10: “BKMA is committed to the well-being and safety of residents and guests. As part of this commitment, we are communicating regularly on the measures we are taking to ensure their safety, including regular email updates, as well as physical signs regarding COVID-19 and the sanitation program. In our communications, we have provided information regarding: hours of closure, the names of cleaning products we are using, and important and adequate warnings. We are committed to working closely and collaboratively with our neighbors as we do our best to maintain a safe environment through these evolving circumstances. Our residents, guests and pets are members of our family and continue to be our priority.”

The Brickell Key Master Association said at first that they were spraying with Virex Plus, even though the manufacturer told Local 10 they do not recommend the product be used on porous concrete or grass.

They’ve since switched to a diluted Clorox, which left a distinct chemical scent in the windy air during our visit last week, despite that spraying having taken place hours earlier.

“We always need to balance the benefits we might get from the use of that product with potential harms,” said Wendy Blair Stephan of the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami.

Their advice mirrors that of the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that routine cleaning is needed for outdoor areas.

“We don’t have evidence that people are getting the disease from touching the ground, for instance, so we don’t really have any basis for using [a diluted bleach solution outside],” Stephan said.

Despite more residents coming forward to complain of symptoms like nausea and migraines, the association keeps spraying.

"I believe Brickell Key has really crossed their boundaries,” Munix said.

We asked a Miami real estate attorney what residents can do if they feel their association is not being responsive to their complaints.

“This is an interesting case, because in the end, it is the owners of a condo that run the condo,” attorney David Winker said. "The spraying was done by the management company, but the management company answers to the condo owners in the end. The condo board needs to get involved and ensure that any spraying is done safely and in compliance with law.

“The condo owners need to review their corporate procedures and lines of communication to ensure that things like this don’t happen.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."