Special investigation: During the 1990s workers were told not to worry about breathing in the poison – but years later they suffer debilitating illnesses Outside the fumigation chambers it hung around, bonded to the tropical north Queensland air, amid the hottest November on record. When Sharman went home, and nursed his baby son to sleep, the odour of the gas was still there. “It would stick around on my clothes when I’d go home at night,” Sharman recalls. “A garlicky sort of smell. A specific smell, I’ve never smelled it before or since [but] it’s a smell you wouldn’t forget.” Sharman was unemployed in October 1995, when he heard about the discovery of the papaya fruit fly (Bactrocera papayae) in north Queensland and offered to help out. Within days he was on the government payroll, working in a makeshift fumigation tent near Innisfail, disinfesting fruit with ethylene dibromide (EDB). The fumigation chambers were converted PVC tents that routinely leaked. They had no exhaust vents. In the corner, sitting on an old milk crate, was an aluminium electric frypan. “You’d be handed the chemical … in a five-litre plastic container, unlabelled, like water. We used to pour … an amoun...