Insecticide blamed in deaths of four Thailand hotel visitors

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND The chemical chlorpyrifos, typically used by farmers to kill insects, is suspected as the cause of four deaths at a hotel in Chiang Mai earlier this year.

A New Zealand woman, a British couple and a Thai tour guide all died over a 16-day period in February at the 3-star Downtown Inn Chiang Mai. There were no signs of foul play, and authorities have been baffled over the deaths.

This week, an investigation by New Zealand’s TV3 found traces of the chemical in the guestroom where 23-year-old Sarah Carter was found dead. Carter’s two companions also fell violently ill but ultimately recovered. The results of the TV3 investigation have been independently confirmed by a United Nations scientist, who says the symptoms of the victims are consistent with the effects of the chemical.

Chlorpyrifos is classified by the New Zealand Environmental and Risk Management Authority as “acutely toxic” to humans and “ecotoxic” in water and soil environments.