Sulfuryl Fluoride

Flying termites
Photo by Creative Commons LicenseDerek Keats
Sulfuryl Fluoride is frequently used as fumigant for treating termites and also used in other pest control products. It is a relatively new chemical that has been introduced to replace methyl bromide as the sulfuryl fluoride was believed to be less harmful to the ozone layer – however recent research suggests this is unlikely to be the case. It is commonly used in the United States as a pesticide to kill drywood termites and many other pests such as bed bugs and rodents. Other treatments for killing drywood termites include using heat as well as other more organic and natural solutions.

Sulfuryl Fluoride is usually marketed under a series of different brand names by different competing companies:

  • Vikane is the oldest of these brands and has been on sale since the 60’s
  • Profume has recently been introduced for pest control usage on farms and in other areas
  • Zythor is also a recent chemical that has been approved for use in some areas of the USA
  • Masterfume is one last new entrant into the market

What happens with a sulfuryl fluoride fumigation?

If you’re looking for a fumigant for termite pest control then Vikane is what the companies entering your house are most likely to use. The gas is dangerous to human health if a person is exposed to it for a length of time. However, if the house has been well ventilated after the fumigation, and a long enough period of time has elapsed (usually half a day or so) then the occupants can return to the house without any ill effects. Because sulfuryl fluoride is odourless and undetectable to the human nose, it is usually mixed in with tear gas so that any humans that happen to come across it will be aware of this toxic chemical.

When sulfuryl fluoride is used as a fumigant by a pest control company they’ll come in with a MSDS, then the first thing they will do is to tent the infested house, making sure all windows and doors are covered. The sulfuryl fluoride gas will then be poured inside for almost a full day, during this period of time the termites (and especially the drywood termites) will be killed off. Afterwards, the house will need to be aired for almost another half day to ensure that none of the chemical residue remains in the house. For this to happen, all the doors and windows inside the home are left open to allow the gas to evaporate from the home removing the toxicity.

One of the downsides to using sulfuryl fluoride is that it has been discovered to have a very long atmospheric life that can cause it can live in the ozone layer for almost 40 years. It has also been found to be many times more effective at trapping in heat than carbon dioxide. Because of this sulfuryl fluoride contributes to global warming and there have been recent campaigns against its usage. However, it must be noted that the amount of sulfuryl fluoride released into the atmosphere is much, much less than the amount of carbon dioxide released and so its effects are very insignificant in comparison. Also, sulfuryl fluoride still remains as one of the most effective methods of getting rid of drywood termites.