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Pesticide Exposures

Fumigants

Fumigation is a pest control method in which a pesticide gas or vapor is released into the air or injected into the soil to kill or eliminate pests. Structural fumigation is used to eliminate pests such as termites and bedbugs. This pest control method fills the airspace within a structure with a toxic gas. A tarp or tent is used to trap the gas inside the area being treated. Soil fumigation is a commonly used agricultural practice to treat fields to reduce weeds, nematodes and other soil insects and small rodents such as moles. Agricultural fumigants are injected into the soil and move through the soil air and dissolve in the water in the soil where they kill pests. Fumigant pesticides are also used on grains and crops post-harvest to reduce insects, ticks and mites, nematodes, slugs and snails and fungal diseases. Post-harvest treatment of food crops is a potential source of exposure to pesticide residues on food. Information and data from USDA on pesticide residues on food is being developed for the tracking program and will be added to this content area in the near future.

Exposure and Risk

People are primarily exposed to fumigant pesticides by breathing them in. People who live or work near fields treated with pesticides may be exposed. Exposure to fumigant pesticides from residential structural fumigation may also present a risk. Both structural and soil fumigation must be carried out by certified applicators because of the highly toxic nature of the pesticide gases.

Prevention

The most effective way to reduce risk for fumigant health effects is to use integrated pest management and avoid using pesticides. If you decide to use a fumigant, it is essential to be aware of the hazards and to use the product carefully. Fumigant pesticides are restricted use pesticides and are only available for sale to certified applicators that have been trained in the proper handling of the fumigant and the equipment used for the application. Before fumigation, you can help to prevent exposure risks by keeping children, pets, and food away from the area and do not enter the area when the product is being used. The pest control company or pesticide applicator will provide specific instructions on how to prepare your home. Read and follow those directions carefully. For more information on pesticide use and how you can find a certified applicator, please contact your state's Cooperative Extension Office, available at this link: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

Read more safety tips from the National Pesticide Information Center and EPA.

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