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Digital Re-print March | April 2014

What is Fumigation? - A technique of pest control using a toxic gas


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30 | March - April 2014

GRAIN

&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGY

What is Fumigation?
A technique of pest control using a toxic gas
by Mike Kelly, Acheta

But by far the biggest disadvantage of hereas conventional insecti- mon to hear farm workers talking of fumicides work by the pest species gating their grain stores, as they prepare to fumigation is lack of long-term effect. Once making contact with the dried apply a canister of a pesticidal smoke. The its gone its gone! And, unlike the dried toxic deposits or of airborne or surface dry smoke generator can seem very impressive, powder or spray deposits of conventional particles or liquid droplets, often by way but will have almost zero penetration into insect control, fumigated goods are open to of the cuticle but sometimes by ingestion, sacks and bags or into dried food spillage. re-infestation immediately after the gas has disfumigants always work in the gaseous It is only true fumigants that can kill pests persed. It is definitely difficult to use fumigation form, entering the pests body through hiding in deep deposits of spillage or of as a protective (prophylactic) measure, despite is Fumigation? the foodstuffs themselves. We will see this the claims of some fumigation companies over its respiration system - the What spiracles aspect of fumigation again when we discuss the years. All depends on totally protecting the in the case of the invertebrates. 1. A technique of pest control using a toxic gas. treating grain heaps, or silos and bins of commodity from further attack. Whereas conventional insecticides work by the pest species making contact with the dried toxic deposits or of airborne or surface In in fact the real grain,often or by flour bagbut stacks in by food stores. True fumigants should be differentiated dry particles or liquid droplets, way of or the cuticle sometimes ingestion, fumigants always work the gaseous form, and unique advantage of entering the pests body through its respiration system - the spiracles in the case of the invertebrates. Fumigant gases kill target pests via the fumigation is its penetration through bulks from insecticidal smokes, fogs and mists, True fumigants should be differentiated from insecticidal smokes, fogs and mists, which are often incorrectly referred to as which are often incorrectly referred to as respiration system, usually by preventing the and all woven bags of dried commodity fumigants. Fumigants are gases, which diffuse as separate molecules, penetrating into the materials being fumigated. The completion difof a fumigation requires of aeration or ventilation which removes all traces of the fumigant gases, although other residues transfer oxygen into the tissues. fumigants. Fumigants are gases, which may remain, which will be discussed later. Smokes, fogs and mists are air-borne suspensions of solid or liquid particles, which will be deposited on the outer surfaces of the being treated packaging or structure) any degree of Ideally a materials fumigant will (foods, work rapidly, and without fuse as separate molecules, penetrating into Fumigation - its practice and penetration. For example, it is quite common to hear farm workers talking of fumigating their grain stores, as they prepare to apply not leave an harmful But the materials being fumigated. The comeffectiveness a canister of a pesticidal smoke. As seen below, the smoke residues. generator can seem very there impressive, but will have almost zero into sacks and bags or into dried food spillage. So it is only true fumigants that can kill pests hiding in deep deposits of canthemselves. be other issues with fumigation. Of pletion of a fumigation requirespenetration aeration Because all fumigants are at least as spillage or of the foodstuffs We will see this aspect of fumigation again when we discuss treating grain heaps, or silos and bins of grain, or flour or bag stacks in food stores. or ventilation which removes all traces of the fumigants left in use in the 21st century, toxic to all animals, including humans, as Fumigant gases kill target pests require via the respiration system, usually by preventing the transfer of oxygen the tissues. some quite a high working temperathe fumigant gases, although other residues tointo invertebrates, in Europe and the USA, Ideally a fumigant will work rapidly, and not leave an harmful residues. But there can be other issues with fumigation. the commodities and buildings may remain, which will be discussed later. ture (around > 25C) to effectively control fumigation Ofof C) to effectively control insect fumigants left in use in the 21 century, some require quite a high working temperature (around > 25 eggs, some need extended exposure periods (often in excess extended of 2 weeks continuous exposure grain weevils, and spider insect eggs, some need exposure Smokes, fogs and mists are air-borne suscan only be carried out by trained and beetles, for example, or for the tiny booklice and mites, sometimes even needing two fumigations separated by 10 days! pensions of solid or liquid particles, which periods (often in excess of 2 weeks con- certificated fumigation operators. However, But by far the biggest disadvantage of fumigation it is lack of long-term effect. Once its gone its gone! And, unlike the dried tinuous exposure grain weevils, andtospider will be deposited on the outer surfaces of deposits it is very useful for all involved in the storage powder or spray of conventional insect control, fumigated goods are open re-infestation immediately after the gas has dispersed. It is definitely difficult to use fumigation as a protective (prophylactic) measure, despite the claims of some fumigation beetles, for example, or for the tiny booklice the materials being treated (foods, packagof food commodities and working in food companies over the years. All depends on totally protecting the commodity from further attack (see later in article) and mites, sometimes even needing two ing or structure) without any degree of manufacturing plants, to understand the prinIn fact the real and unique advantage of fumigation is its penetration through bulks and all woven bags of dried commodity penetration. For example, it is quite com- fumigations separated by 10 days! ciples and practical aspects, and constraints,
st

2.

Fumigation - its practice and effectiveness Because all fumigants are at least as toxic to all animals, including humans, as to invertebrates, in Europe, fumigation of commodities and buildings can only be carried out by trained and certificated fumigation operators. However, it is very useful for all involved in the storage of food commodities and working in food manufacturing plants, to understand the principles and practical aspects, and constraints, of fumigation, so that they can consider or recommend fumigation only when it is likely to be the best option.

A Detia Phosphine dispenser electricallypowered for silos. This uses spherical tablets which roll down a plastic tube and into the silo, and will result in a powder contamination of the fumigated grain

Hot-Fogging tobacco warehouse

At the time of writing, 2014, the Montreal Protocol has resulted in methyl bromide previously the most frequently-used fumigant - being totally phased out from European and other developed countries fumigations. Sulfuryl fluoride (SF), previously confined to termite and other wood-boring insect control mostly in America, has now received limited approval for use on many timber products including logs, and for use in empty grain storage situations and emptied flour & feed mills. In the USA SF has a few dried foods clearances (tree nuts, for example) but not in Europe. The principle reason seems to be that there will always be a fluoride residue, and in many situations there is no accepted, listed approval for fluoride in foods, which helps explain why SF is generally unacceptable for food container imports. Phosphine (PH3) is the commonest fumigant in use worldwide. It has been available commercially since the 1950s, originally being produced solely in Germany, but in recent years also manufactured in India, some South American countries and China, in formulations very similar to those well known from Germany.

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32 | March - April 2014

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of fumigation, so that they can consider or recommend fumigation only when it is likely to be the best option. At the time of writing, 2014, the Montreal Protocol has resulted in methyl bromide previously the most frequently-used fumigant - being totally phased out from European and other developed countries fumigations. Sulfuryl fluoride (SF), previously confined to termite and other wood-boring insect control mostly in America, has now received limited approval for use on many timber products including logs, and for use in empty grain storage situations and emptied flour & feed mills. In the USA SF has a few dried foods clearances (tree nuts, for example) but not in Europe. The principle reason seems to be that there will always be a fluoride residue, and in many situations there is no accepted, listed approval for fluoride in foods, which helps explain why SF is generally unacceptable for food container imports. Phosphine (PH3) is the commonest fumigant in use worldwide. It has been available commercially since the 1950s, originally being produced solely in Germany, but in recent years also manufactured in India, some South American countries and China, in formulations very similar to those well known from Germany. Phosphine gas is invariably generated onsite by the action of atmospheric moisture, or commodity humidity, on solid aluminium, or magnesium, phosphide preparations, in tablet, pellet, sachet, plate or strip form. E.g.: AlP + H20 = PH3 + AlOH. Phosphine is a light gas (only slightly heavier than air) with a small very active mobile molecule. It has a wide spectrum of activity, but is a slow-acting fumigant on insects, needing days, rather than hours of exposure in most situations. It will easily leak out of all but the best-sealed enclosures, can damage through

corrosion silver phosphide - delicate silver, gold & copper fittings (e.g. computer equipment and switch boxes) and, if the loose pellets and tablets are used, leaves powder deposits of (mostly) aluminium hydroxide. Residues of the gas itself are almost impossible to detect in the commodity following normal aeration after treatment, but the dry powder residue is usually an unacceptable contamination in dry foods, so a contained formulation should always be chosen to facilitate complete removal [see later in this paper for illustrated examples]. Due to the corrosion risk when the gas is in contact with copper gold and silver, phosphine is not normally used for buildings (electrical systems and computers) and never for aircraft (electronics). With great care it can be used in mills, by separating the gas from all computer-activated machinery shrouding and separating with well-sealed polythene enclosures almost the exact opposite of the fumigation procedure, where gas leakage is the big potential problem. Phosphine is not therefore a complete replacement for methyl bromide in all circumstances. It also has a fire hazard potential when very high concentrations occur the critical auto-ignition level is 1.8% which equates to 18,000 ppm significantly higher than would occur in normal fumigations.

chose the highest value quoted for the most difficult species. For Methyl Bromide this was a critical feature to achieve good kill and not cause excess bromide residues. But phosphine does not have these problems. It is much more common simply to decide the dosage, and measure the end-point concentration.

One of the most important features of all fumigations is the need to contain the gas within the fumigation enclosure at a specified concentration for a specified time (= the Building fumigations (= space exposure period). These two factors can be fumigation) varied within limits, provided the necessary The principles under which whole buildconcentration x time product is achieved. ings are fumigated are the same as for This value (the CTP) varies according to the stacks: the gastobacco must warehouse be contained at the Spraying beetle-proof mesh no gloves Hot-Fogging pest species and live stages, and for mixed correct concentration for the required time species infestations it will be necessary to (exposure period) to allow the gas time to

Concentration x Time [CTP]

If the store floor is in poor condition, it will be necessary to stack on a base or ground fumigation sheet. This can later be drawn up, rolled and joined (clips, clamps, glue or tape, according to the sheeting in use) to the main stack fumigation sheets. Since sealing is so vital to long-exposure phosphine fumigations, it may be difficult, or even impossible, to successfully fumigate normal warehouses, where the ridge is usually out of reach for any form of sealing. Ventilated silos and bins are frequently fitted with aerated steel floors which, again, are almost impossible to seal to form a gas-tight enclosure suitable for phosphine.. Not only this, but there are many grain stores which are just not suitable for fumigation. In the days of 24-hour methyl bromide use, it may have been possible to achieve sufficient gas concentration to give a good kill. 5 to 15 day phosphine fumigations may not be possible, and it really is essential that the fumigator-in-charge makes this clear to the potential client

Commodity fumigation in a warehouse

Some General Features of Fumigation Advantages: Very penetrative into insects and mites, into food residues and spillage, through packaging and into foodstuffs and other materials, e.g.: timber Insect and mite tolerance to fumigants is reduced at higher temperatures Disadvantages:

Spraying beetle-proof mesh no gloves

Hot-Fogging tobacco warehouse

High risk of gas leakage out of fumigation enclosures over long exposure Sealing and good condition sheeting is essential Overdosing of MeBr would kill fresh plant produce and cause high bromide residues. Phosphine does not have these problems

Tabs in first few minutes Concentration, or time, can be Smoke generator varied, within limits, providing No residual protection, therefore not the100 final CxT product isroll sufficient a bag-blanket prophylactic treatment AlP sachets in one the original quick and easy no masks for required the species to legally atbe thecontrolled time! Bulk grain with cover sheet ready to pull over. * Gas distribution affected by stowage, temperature, absorption, commodity etc

Smoke generator

Tabs in first few minutes

Spray grain store roof ; note lake of spray fallout for next grain to sit on
Spray grain store roof ; note lake of spray fallout for next grain to sit on

Spray grain store roof ; note fallout for next grain to sit on

All involved must be trained to wear protective respiratory protective clothing. Not very expensive but vital for survival Measurement of gas concentrations throughout the fumigation is essential check on instruments and Real bulk grain fumigation only the doorway was sheeted to the ground!! * detection tubes available

Real bulk grain fumigation only the doorway was sheeted to the ground!

Thick bubbles of tablet de-activation

Thick bubbles of tablet de-a

Real bulk grain fumigation only the doorway was sheeted to the ground!! *

Bulk-bag of costly seed fumigated with PH3-no risk

e lake of spray n

activation

. Each plate enough for 20ft container * 34 | March April 2014

100 AlP sachets in one roll the original bag-blanket quick and easy no masks required legally at the time! Bulk grain with cover sheet ready to pull over. *
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&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGY

Water deactivation of ALOH

Bulk-bag of cost risk

Zig-Zag MgP Fumistrip

Tablet residue wet deactivation wearing a mask with filter * Magphos Fumistrip for large-scale fumigations. Each plate enough for 20ft container *

Tablet residues collected for disposal *

Tablet residue wet deactivation w

Spraying beetleproof door mesh

Tabs in first

Bag-blanket on grain surface

Spraying beetle-proof mesh no gloves search out and kill the target pest. Sealing buildings is laborious, time-consuming (up to 2 days full work for a flour mill), and it will be necessary to do some pre-cleaning of machinery to ensure good penetration of the Fumigant But the gas at least changes - we mentioned Sulfuryl Fluoride earlier this is now the gas of choice for whole buildings. A Dow AgroSciences gas, supplied and used according to DAS safety and training standards. The quantity of gas needed for a mill could be considerable (usually several tonnes) and this will require careful planning to ensure safe de-gassing, or ventilation. Where phosphine can be filtered out using a mask and filter, SF cannot, so breathing apparatus is required, with the attendant training and understanding. Smoke generator

100 AlP sachets in one roll the original bag-blanket quick and easy no masks Hot-Fogging tobacco required legally at the warehouse time! Bulk grain with cover sheet ready to pull over. *
All fumigations may leak gas, despite careful precautions. The success of the treatment will depend on knowing that the correct dosage has been used, and retained, throughout the fumigation exposure period. Taking gas concentration readings, using simple gas-detector tubes or electronic instruments or, in the case of SF, specialist equipment will be needed to monitor this. As SF is a cylinderised fumigant, additional gas may be introduced during a fumigation to top up, if leakage has occurs which cannot be fixed. Of course, reasons for leaks should be investigated; holes, tears and poor sealing should be repaired urgently where they are accessible.

Fumigation is never a low-cost treatment. Although it has distinct advan-

Is fumigation necessary?

tages over other forms of pest control (for example, its seek and kill of insects hidden within foods), it will not guarantee zero reinfestation. As with all forms of chemical pest control, there should be a justification for the use of pesticides. How does one justify the fumigation of food commodities? Interestingly, since Methyl bromide has disappeared, and SF is so relatively costly, many mills have adopted extra hygiene measures, and sometimes heat treatments, to achieve a similar degree of pest control. But, whilst fumigation and heat treatments have no prophylactic role, targeted hygiene does!!! So removing methyl bromide has had the effect of minimising the use of fumigation in mills, and simultaneously encourBulk-bag of cos aging a much more hygiene-conscious mill risk industry (though this industry may not see it quite like that!!)

Spray grain store roof ; note lake of spray fallout for next grain to sit on Magphos Fumistrip for large-scale fumigations. Each plate enough for 20ft container *

Achetas Fumigation Handbook

Whilst I justify covering quite a bit of the older techniques (liquid fumigants, for example) because many older fumigators don't realise why they are no longer available, it also helps to put phosphine into perspective, and hopefully it will make all think twice - we have no other fumigant gases left if phosphine is pulled due to bad/unsafe practices. It can also take the place of the very old and outof-date BPCA Fumigation Manual, which also covers many of the older fumigation methods, and is therefore also a source of historical reference. Pricing Individually @ 25, plus P&P (3.00) 28 inc P&P http://www.acheta.co.uk

tly seed fumigated with PH3-no

wearing a mask with filter *

few minutes

stly seed fumigated with PH3-no

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What is Fumigation?

A technique of pest control using a toxic gas

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