What is a Fumigant?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A fumigant is a chemical which is utilized as a pesticide or disinfectant while it is in a gaseous state. There are a number of uses for fumigants, and these chemicals are produced by chemical companies all over the world. Fumigants must be used with care, as they can be extremely dangerous, and some are only sold or released to people are certified to handle them, to ensure that they do not end up in the hands of someone without experience.

Fumigants are used to sterilize soil.
Fumigants are used to sterilize soil.

One of the most famous uses of fumigants is in structural fumigation, where a structure is tented to keep the gas in, and filled with gas. As the gas moves through the structure, it kills pests inside. Tenting can take several days, with additional time to allow the structure to fully ventilate before people and pets are allowed back inside. This practice is commonly used with insect pests such as termites which cannot be controlled with less drastic measures.

Fumigants are used as pesticides and disinfectants.
Fumigants are used as pesticides and disinfectants.

The agricultural industry is a big fumigant consumer. Fumigants are used to sterilize soil before planting, to treat infested crops, and to treat harvested products which have been infested. Agricultural fumigants can be used in greenhouses, storage facilities, and on open fields. Fumigants are also sometimes utilized in sterilization in medical facilities, and in equipment decontamination.

Products such as textiles, leather goods, and so forth can also be subjected to fumigation if they are believed to be contaminated or if they are being brought across a containment line. For example, if an area is experiencing an outbreak of a plant disease, materials shipped from that area may be shipped to prevent the spread of the disease.

The biggest concern with fumigants is that they can be toxic to people, non-human animals, and plants. Before an area is fumigated, it must be carefully inspected to confirm that no one is inside, and the fumigant must be tightly controlled during the fumigation process to prevent leaks. Handlers receive special training in safety protocols and the appropriate gear to wear while doing a fumigation. They also learn about how to ventilate spaces during and after fumigation procedures, and how to deal with emergencies which may arise.

A fumigant may come in the form of a powdered or liquid chemical compound which must be reacted to something else to attain a gaseous state for fumigation, or it may come as a compressed gas, or a liquid which is pushed through an aerosolizer to create a gaseous fumigant. Different chemicals are suitable for different tasks, with pest control and sanitation professionals having the experience to select the right tool for the job.

Fumigants may be used to control insect populations.
Fumigants may be used to control insect populations.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon97251

This is a well-written, informative introduction to fumigation. Thanks for the information!

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