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Thieves Steal Tainted Alcoholic Beverages

January 6, 1989

MIAMI (AP) _ Thieves who stole four trailers loaded with alcoholic beverages, stereo components and clothing got more than they bargained for - authorities say the cargo is contaminated with dangerous pesticides.

″Anybody just handling the cartons could be poisoned if they put their hands in their mouth or eye. The poison may not show up for weeks,″ said LaVerne Guillen, spokeswoman for the Metro-Dade Fire Department.

Three of the trailers, which were stolen over New Year’s weekend, have been recovered, she said Friday. But the first two were discovered empty.

The first trailer contained 200 cases of champagne, rum, and cognac, she said. Two other trailers also contained alcohol, and authorities warned the public not to buy alcoholic beverages anywhere except in licensed liquor stores.

The cartons became contaminated during a September fire at a Dade County warehouse containing hazardous materials, Ms. Guillen said.

Authorities are uncertain whether the poisonous chemicals seeped through the corks of the stolen imported champagne or into the bottles of rum, brandy and cognac in the cartons, according to Capt. Tom Wheeler of the state Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Division.

Ms. Guillen said the cartons were loaded onto the trailers for shipment to Alabama for disposal. Florida does not allow hazardous waste to be buried in its landfills, she said.

One of the contaminants is phenylmercuric acetate. Ms. Guillen said the ″extremely toxic″ chemical is used as an antiseptic, herbicide, fungicide and mildewcide for paints.

Fire department personnel calculated that seven drops to one teaspoonful of the pesticide would kill a 150-pound person.

″They were concerned that the pesticides were in a concentrated form on the cartons,″ Ms. Guillen said.

Symptoms of exposure include nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, irritability, hallucinations and slurred speech.

The recovered trailer that had not been emptied contained an assortment of things, including drums of pesticide and some foodstuffs, Ms. Guillen said.

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