Questions & Answers Regarding:
FUMIGATION FOR PEST CONTROL
- What is fumigation?
- How can I tell if my house has been fumigated?
- What preparations must be taken before a house is fumigated?
- What information about my house should I give my termite company prior to fumigation?
- How long does a fumigation take?
- What does the fumigant smell like?
- When drywood termites or wood boring beetles are found, must the structure always be fumigated?
- Will fumigation eliminate all the termites and pests in the structure?
- How are occupants of a structure notified that a fumigation will be done?
- How can a consumer find out what fumigants were used on their property?
- Who can enter a structure while it is being fumigated?
- How will I know when it is safe to move back into a home wich has just been fumigated?
- What should I do if physical discomfort is experienced immediately following a fumigation?
- Can a homeowner contract directly with a fumigation company?
- Are fumigations safe?
Q. WHAT IS FUMIGATION?
A. Fumigation is a method of using a lethal gas to exterminate pests within an enclosed space. There are two methods of performing a fumigation. One is to seal the structure with plastic, tape or other sealing materials, and the other is by enclosing the structure in a “tent” of vinyl-coated nylon tarpaulins.
Q. HOW CAN I TELL IF MY HOUSE HAS BEEN FUMIGATED?
A. Since 1961, the law requires that, upon completion of a fumigation, a sign indicating the name of the licensee, the date of the fumigation and the type of fumigant used be posted by the fumigator in either the attic or in the subarea of a house. These tags are to remain permanently and should not be detached.
Q. WHAT PREPARATIONS MUST BE TAKEN BEFORE A HOUSE IS FUMIGATED?
A. All persons, pets and plants must be removed from the structure prior to fumigation. (This includes fish and seeds or bulbs intended for planting). Medicines, feed, and food not sealed in metal, glass or highly resistant containers must be removed from the structure or sealed in protective bags as recommended by the fumigant manufacturer. Ask your fumigator any questions you have regarding the fumigation. (See also, Fumigation Preparation Video)
Q. WHAT INFORMATION ABOUT MY HOUSE SHOULD I GIVE MY TERMITE COMPANY PRIOR TO FUMIGATION?
A. Your termite company is required to ask you about the presence of any construction elements, conduits, drains, or vacuum systems that could allow passage of the fumigant from your home to adjacent or adjoining structures.
Q. HOW LONG DOES A FUMIGATION TAKE?
A. The length of time required for a fumigation varies. A fumigation can take anywhere from six hours to one week depending on the type of infestation, dosage, temperature, size of the structure and other factors.
Q. WHAT DOES THE FUMIGANT SMELL LIKE?
A. Structural fumigants are odorless. Therefore, fumigators are required to release a warning agent such as chloropicrin (tear gas) within the structure at the time the fumigation begins and throughout the entire fumigation process.
Q. WHEN DRYWOOD TERMITES OR WOOD BORING BEETLES ARE FOUND, MUST THE STRUCTURE ALWAYS BE FUMIGATED?
A. No, fumigation is not always a required method of treatment for drywood termites and wood- boring beetles. Fumigation is an allencompassing treatment in which the gases permeate the entire structure, eradicating termites that are inaccessible, in addition to the visible infestations. If an infestation is contained in a small area(s), the termites or beetles may be eliminated by local applications. The inspector will use their professional judgment to determine, on a case-by-case basis, what type of treatment is necessary. If treatments other than fumigation are recommended, you should be aware that the localized treatments will not provide eradication of other hidden infestations in the building.
Q. WILL FUMIGATION ELIMINATE ALL THE TERMITES AND PESTS IN THE STRUCTURE?
A. No, subterranean termites require separate treatments to create a barrier between the structure and their nest in the ground. Under optimum conditions, the target pest will be dead or obviously dying by the end of the fumigation. Drywood termites can remain alive as long as a week after receiving a lethal dose of a fumigant. Lethal doses vary for different pests, depending on the type of fumigant used. It is entirely possible for household pests (such as spiders, cockroaches, etc.) to survive a fumigation with the dosage used for drywood termites.
NOTE: Reinfestations of the target pest could occur following a fumigation.
Drywood termites and some wood destroying beetles generate small pellets or dust that remains in the tunnels after the insects are killed. You may continue to notice these signs after a fumigation. This does not necessarily mean the fumigation failed. If you have any questions about the success of your treatment, contact your pest control company. Since fumigants have no residual effect, other household pests can reinfect after a fumigation.
Q. HOW ARE OCCUPANTS OF A STRUCTURE NOTIFIED THAT A FUMIGATION WILL BE DONE?
A. Before a structural pest control company applies a fumigant, it must have in its possession an occupant fumigation notice that has been signed by the occupant(s) or designated agent of a structure. The occupant’s fumigation notice must state the pest to be controlled, the proposed pesticide(s), including their active ingredients, and the caution statement. This form must state that a lethal gas will be used in the building on indicated dates and that it is unsafe to return to the building until a notice of reentry is posted by the licensee in charge of the fumigation. The owner should receive a copy of the occupant’s fumigation notice.
Q. HOW CAN A CONSUMER FIND OUT WHAT FUMIGANTS WERE USED ON THEIR PROPERTY?
A. Before a structural pest control operator applies a fumigant, he must inform the owner or owner’s agent and tenant(s) of the fumigants proposed to be used and their active ingredients. Also, this notification must alert the consumer to call their physician or poison control center and the pest control company in the event of a reaction after fumigation. The form should advise consumers to call if anyone entering the structure experiences symptoms of dizziness, nausea, reduced awareness, slowed movement, garbled speech or difficulty breathing within 24 hours and give any other symptoms of overexposure.
The name of the fumigant used will be entered on the notice of reentry that will be posted on the door. This is in addition to the fumigation tag, which indicates the name of the pest control company, date of the fumigation, and the name of the fumigant used. These tags will be permanently affixed in the subarea and/or attic. (See question 2)
Q. WHO CAN ENTER A STRUCTURE WHILE IT IS BEING FUMIGATED?
A. Chemicals used in fumigation are lethal! Exposure to fumigants in a structure being fumigated, even for a few minutes, will result in death or serious injury.
Absolutely NO ONE can enter a structure until it has been certified safe for reentry by the licensee in charge of the fumigation. Warning signs are posted in plainly visible locations on or in the immediate vicinity of all entrances.
To ensure that even the owner or tenant cannot reenter a structure, the company is required to put a secondary lock on all outside doors that only the company can open. These locks can be any device such as padlock, keyway lock or deadbolts from the inside which will prevent opening by anyone but the licensee in charge.
Q. HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN IT IS SAFE TO MOVE BACK INTO A HOME WHICH HAS JUST BEEN FUMIGATED?
A. The fumigator is required to post a reentry notice on the property at the time the structure is actually deemed safe for occupancy. The notice states that the building is safe for reentry, and gives the date and time that the building was released, the name of the structural pest control company issuing the notice, and its license and telephone numbers.
Q. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT IS EXPERIENCED IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING A FUMIGATION?
A. If, within 24 hours following application, you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, tearing, coughing, nose/throat irritation, develop shortness of breath, double vision, unusual drowsiness, weakness, or tremors, leave the fumigated structure and immediately contact your physician, poison control center, the structural pest control company and the Structural Pest Control Board to report the incident.
Q. CAN A HOMEOWNER CONTRACT DIRECTLY WITH A FUMIGATION COMPANY?
A. Yes, a homeowner can contract with a Branch 1 Fumigation company (to fumigate) by providing a copy of an inspection report (which identifies a wood destroying pest that can be eradicated by fumigation.) The Branch 1 company will issue a certification of fumigation to the homeowner and to the pest control company that performed the inspection within five days of the fumigation. The pest control company that performed the inspection will attach the fumigation certification to any reinspection report, notice of work completed or certification which it issues.
Q. ARE FUMIGATIONS SAFE?
A. Fumigations are highly regulated by the State of California. To perform fumigations, companies must be registered with the Structural Pest Control Board (Board).
Pest control companies may also be required to notify local fire departments before a fumigation takes place. The State Department of Pesticide Regulation registers all fumigants used in California and contracts with each County Agricultural Commissioner to monitor their use. If you have any questions regarding safety of fumigants, chemicals or pesticides, you may call your local County Agricultural Commissioner.