There are many reasons why fumigation in transit for your long-distance truck may seem like a good idea, but there are even more reasons why it is NOT.
Whilst there are many fumigation companies that still offer this service, at Rentokil we don't provide fumigation in transit using Methyl Bromide or Profume as this is considered an illegal practice. This blog unpacks why.
Why you should not fumigate in transit: your questions answered
While lockdown had a huge influence on the market, demand for goods is picking up again - but that doesn't mean now is the time to be taking shortcuts, no matter how tempted you may be. Below we answer some of your frequently asked questions about cargo fumigation for containers on long-distance trucks.
Q: How dangerous can fumigation-in-transit really be?
Inhalation is the most common - and the most dangerous - risk from fumigants. Because fumigants like Methyl Bromide and Profume are almost odourless, it's really hard to detect a leakage without the proper detection and monitoring equipment. Being exposed to even a small amount more than the regulated fumigant exposure limit (FEL) could cause an incident, serious illness, or even death. The regulated Fumigant exposure limits (FEL) are: Methyl Bromide (5ppm), Phosphine (0.1ppm), Sulfuryl Fluoride (3.0ppm).
Depending on the surface of the road it is travelling, a container in transit may be bumped and knocked about, and could shift during the trip. If there was an accident or even a very hard bump, the doors could gape or pop open, causing the fumigant gas to leak. Will the driver know what to do in the event of that situation? Will they have the proper safety equipment and knowledge to handle the situation safely? This could be harmful to the environment, the first responders, or anybody in close vicinity.
At Rentokil, safety is a priority and our number one rule is “Ensuring everyone goes home safe” which includes our employees AND our customer’s employees. And while we understand the job needs to be done in the shortest possible time, fumigation in transit just poses too many dangerous unknowns.
A reputable fumigation company will have not only qualified, experienced staff with the correct safety equipment, PPE and regularly calibrated gas measurement tools, but also public liability insurance. A full site risk inspection needs to be carried out for each and every fumigation treatment, even when a repeat treatment is required. Adequate signage and cordoning off of the area during fumigation is imperative. Read our blog: Why safety is a BIG deal! for more information about our safety protocols.
Here are a few recent news reports of horrific accidents with a fumigant gasses:
- Carte Blanche reports on a tragic incident of methyl bromide poisoning
- Death of an infant from inhalation of methyl bromide
- Explosion on board a vessel due to phosphine not being distributed as per label instructions
- Fire Warning from Ethekwini Municipality about the incorrect usage of pesticides which can cause explosions and fires
Q: Why is Aeration so important?
Aeration is a very important step, and one which cannot be carried out when doing fumigation in transit. Without aeration, the fumigant gas will be trapped within the fumigation container. There may also be pockets of gas trapped between the packed goods, which will only be released once the goods are shifted.
The recipient could then be exposed to the fumigant, and if they are not wearing personal protective gear as well as monitoring equipment, this could be dangerous, or even fatal. Documentation and certification accompanying the cargo will detail important information about the cargo, the fumigation methods and preparations used so that the end user can be informed. This is especially important when exporting goods.
Q: Is fumigation in transit really illegal?
According to the Methyl Bromide and Profume product labels, these products are not permitted for use in transit fumigation.
In an advisory, Dr Gerhard H. Verdoorn from CropLife South Africa refers to Regulation No. R1716 of Act No. 36 of 1946 : “This regulation prohibits the use of an agricultural remedy like methyl bromide for a purpose or in a manner other than that directed by the label. No methyl bromide label has in transit fumigation on the label, which means it is unlawful to do so with this fumigant.”
- Download the full advisory pdf attachment.
In another letter from SAPCA (South African Pest Control Association), it warns all Fumigators: This practice is prohibited in terms of the label as well as SANS 10204: 2006 Art.20.6.5 and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization International) and therefore no container may be fumigated with Methyl Bromide in transit.
- Download a copy of the letter pdf attachment.
Q: I have a deadline, how long does fumigation take?
Whilst fumigation in transit may seem like a win-win situation, there is, unfortunately, no SAFE quick-fix with fumigation. Without the proper measures and standards in place, your cargo cannot be certified pest free and there is always a risk that it may be turned away at its end destination.
At Rentokil, we use the latest approved fumigants, and strictly follow the manufacturers’ instructions as well as our own safety protocols. Because Methyl Bromide is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol - and depending on your specific requirements - we'll discuss alternative fumigation solutions where treatment time can be considerably reduced, such as using Sulfuryl Fluoride (Profume) or Heat.
Q: Is there a DIY option for fumigation?
Short answer, no! The application of fumigant gasses should only be carried out by companies registered with the Department of Agriculture and by qualified and registered Fumigators who are in possession of a valid P number that references their fumigation qualification.
Rentokil fumigators are all fully qualified and registered to perform fumigation treatments. Over and above the legislated qualifications, our technicians are required to undergo rigorous inhouse training with regular refresher training and in-field assessments. They fully understand the handling, storage, uses and application of fumigant gasses, as well as the dangers and safety protocols that need to be followed.
Q: Can the efficacy of the treatment be guaranteed?
Let me answer that question with a question. Without monitoring and measuring, how can you be sure that the fumigation has been successful?
Depending on the commodity being fumigated, the pest to be treated, the integrity of the container, and various other factors, a measured amount of fumigant will be inserted into the container through feed lines.
At regular intervals, gas level readings must be taken using measuring equipment which is calibrated regularly to guarantee accuracy. Only if this is done can you guarantee and certify the efficacy of a treatment and have a clearance certificate issued. Rentokil will only issue a clearance certificate once all these steps have been followed.
So whether you are an exporter or need to have goods fumigated as a precaution or legal requirement, consider partnering with Rentokil for a safe and effective fumigation treatment.
While covid-19 is still a concerning topic we’d like to share the this video from the Road Freight Association for Truckers, and how to stay safe during COVID-19
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