A smelly solution for controlling insects leads to new problems in this Honolulu neighborhood

For the past few months, neighbors have raised a stink — about the smell.
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 9:55 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2023 at 1:17 AM HST
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KULIOUOU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This small east Honolulu neighborhood is quiet and peaceful.

But for the past few months, neighbors have raised a stink — about the smell.

“It’s just a sweet smell. It smells like a pesticide,” said resident Chaz Kini. “Don’t know the name, but that’s what it is.”

Kini and another resident, Bryanna Espino, said the odor has been making life miserable.

“This happens at least once a week. Sometimes twice,” Espino said. “And it’s for hours in the late afternoon to late at night when everybody should be sleeping.”

“So bad, like you gotta leave your house,” added Kini. “You close the windows but the thing seeps in and it’s just real bad.”

Espino called the state Health and Agriculture departments for help. Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Branch came out and were able to determine what it is.

“According to them, it’s malathion, and it’s a legal pesticide that you can purchase anywhere,” Espino said. “So there’s no legal repercussions regarding the purchase and use of it.”

According to the Agriculture Department, malathion is found in a wide range of products that you can get easily to kill and control insects, including roaches, ants and mosquitoes.

The department also said it contains petroleum-based chemicals that are responsible for the smell, but it usually breaks down quickly.

However, the odor can linger.

Even this reporter immediately smelled it upon arriving in the neighborhood.

There have been attempts in the state Legislature to put malathion on a list of restricted pesticides, but without success.

“They can just warn people if the smell gets out of control,” Espino said. “So it’s legal and unless something else changes with the law, there’s really nothing they can do about it.”

“Pilau frickin’ neighbors — what you gonna do, you know?” added Kini.

“You just try to make nice with them, yeah? Just talk, make peace and figure out a solution. There’s always solutions to a problem.”