Termite fumigation, commonly called termite tenting, is not just any average way of controlling or getting rid of infestation. It is a process to eliminate termites from a home or any building by using fumigants or gaseous pesticides which can be lethal to living organisms. Time and again, the use of fumigants has been known for its accuracy and efficacy in reaching inaccessible places thereby, eliminating termites down to their very core.
Though it is considered one of the most effective processes in termite control and elimination, fumigation has long been recommended to be used by pest control professionals. These professionals usually make use of heavy sheets to “tent” or enclose the overall area to be fumigated and then, pump up the gaseous chemicals (usually sulfuryl fluoride + chloropicrin) to eliminate the termites therein. The fumigant may be odourless and colorless but, still it does not eliminate certain risks involved.
Apart from being expensive and time consuming, the following safety issues must be kept in mind:
Termite fumigation, as mentioned, involves the use of toxic gases such as sulfuryl fluoride and chloropicrin (a form of tear gas). These fumigants normally last for two to three days or sometimes, a week depending on the gravity of the infestation. Certain precautions are normally given by professional pest control services but amid these, the following safety issues have been reported:
Immediate Side Effects
Even if the stand-down days have already been lifted, many homeowners have reported certain side effects like nausea, headache, coughing fit and uncontrolled tearing of the eyes. This could be due to inadequate aeration after the treatment or too much use of fumigants and other circumstances. Nevertheless, termite fumigation has been reported to deliver these side effects.
Sulfuryl fluoride is dubbed a central nervous system depressant according to the National Pesticide Information Center. This makes it highly toxic to humans, plant life and animals when directly exposed. This is even more so to homes with infants or little children as the fumigant has ten times more exposures to these age ranges than to adults. Chloropicrin, on the other hand, is one kind of irritant with the known characteristic of a tear gas—that has earned it to be part of the Hazardous Substance List of OSHA. It is a potent carcinogen and respiratory system toxin according to certain environmental and health groups. Highly volatile and prone to drift amid the covering, it can affect vulnerable life forms.
The combined chemical ingredients of sulfuryl fluoride and chloropicrin quickly dissipate when the tent is removed. When aeration is done properly, the said fumigants lose their potency to harm the occupants. However, this provides a sure-fire way of increasing the carbon footprint in the environment. These fumigants are powerful greenhouse gases known to contribute largely to global warming. It can stay in the atmosphere for approximately 40 years and may even linger for a century according to research done in UCLA. It can also trap heat 4000 times more than carbon dioxide making it one of the highest contributors to climate change.
Though deaths from termite fumigation are rare, there are certain incidents that have reported of the said risks. Death usually occurs when occupants re-enter a fumigated home prior to any form of aeration or when aeration is incomplete. As reported, just 30 to 40 percent exposure to “raw” fumigants can be fatal to both humans and animals. Often, the cause of reported deaths is inadequate or zero air testing done before re-admitting residents to their homes.
Termites can certainly cause devastating damages to a home pushing homeowners to run to pest control companies offering tried-and-tested fumigation. Some also make do with DIY fumigation on their own which can be far riskier than those done by professionals. To ensure that risks are minimized, if not eliminated, proper precautions must be observed. It is important for the whole household to not rush back into their abodes. Even if the pest control company gives its “go signal”, always take time to read the clearance where air quality is usually noted down. Check for yourself in 1-2 days time if necessary. As the process poses certain fatal risks, it is also important to hire only licensed professionals for such activity.