Sulfuryl Fluoride

by Caroline Cox

reprinted from Fluoride. Article and abstract originally appeared in Journal of Pesticide Reform, 17(2):17-20, 1997, published by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, PO Box 1393, Eugene, Oregon 97440, USA

The fumigant sulfuryl fluoride is widely used to kill termites and other unwanted insects in buildings, ships, railroad cars, and wood products. Sulfuryl fluoride is "an extremely hazardous gas." Typical symptoms of exposure include nose, eye, and throat irritation, weakness, nausea, difficult or painful breathing, seizures, and kidney injury. With repeated exposure or higher concentrations, breathing failure occurs. There is no known antidote for sulfuryl fluoride poisoning. Suluryl fluoride is also toxic to the nervous system. Neurological symptoms include muscle aching and fatigue, co-ordination problems, depression, slurred speech, dizziness, and stumbling, weaving, and staggering when walking. Sulfuryl fluoride has adversely affected reproduction in laboratory animals. When rats inhale sulfuryl fluoride for a period spanning two generations, the weight of the offspring was reduced in both the first and second generation. Sulfuryl fluoride was not tested for its ability to cause cancer as part of the registration process. All tests for effects on nontarget animals and plants, as well as all environmental fate tests were waived during the registration process. It is, however, clearly toxic to nontarget animals and plants. Regulatory agencies and the courts have found repeated violations of fumigation safety have occurred during sulfuryl fluoride treatments. According to one judge, the practices of a major extermination company was "nothing short of scary."

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