Sulfuryl fluoride, also known by the brand name Vikane, is a colorless, odorless gas used to fumigate sealed structures against insect infestation. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Vikane is often used against drywood termites, bedbugs, cockroaches and similar pests. While Vikane is generally considered safe when used according to regulations, it is still considered a toxic air contaminant in the state of California. Vikane fumigation does carry a few risks, though they can be reduced by using correct procedures and equipment.
People who are exposed to large concentrations of Vikane are often subject to irritation of the respiratory passages and lung damage. This type of exposure is most likely to happen when people enter fumigated structures before they are legally permitted to. Buildings which have not been properly aired out after fumigation also carry this risk. In animals exposed to Vikane for long periods of time, the lungs, trachea, larynx and nose all developed sores. These sores may be a hazard for workers who are exposed to Vikane fumigation but do not use appropriate safety equipment.
Nervous System Damage
Acute Vikane exposure may also cause depression of the central nervous system, resulting in slowed breathing and heart rate, and possible loss of consciousness. In severe cases, this can lead to death. Workers who are exposed to Vikane as part of their jobs may also show nervous system problems, including reduced performance on memory and cognitive tests, and reduced ability to smell. Chronic exposure to Vikane in animals causes vacuoles, or empty spots, in the brain. Workers who are exposed to more than the recommended 5 ppm of Vikane are at risk for neurological damage from Vikane fumigation.
Repeated exposure to Vikane in experimental animals also causes damage to the teeth. Rats and dogs exposed to high levels of this gas suffered from dental fluorosis, a condition in which the teeth develop white spots, brown stains or pitting in the enamel. This enamel does not contain the same mineral concentrations as ordinary tooth enamel. As this condition occurs mostly in children, the major risk from Vikane fumigation is in improperly fumigated houses, where children may be exposed to residue from the gas. Bystanders who are too close to a house which is currently being fumigated may also be at risk, as may people who live near fumigation facilities.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.