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OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins
March 14, 1984
The use of chemical grain fumigants for the control of insect infestation of stored grain can result in hazardous exposures to workers involved in the handling of both fumigants and fumigated grain. It has been reported by Region V that recent climatic conditions have contributed to the need for increased fumigation of stored grain due to an upsurge in insect infestations and that economic developments have led to the increased movement of stored grain.
Fumigants commonly used for insect control on stored grain include methyl bromide, phosphine (also known as Phostoxin, "L-fume or aluminum phosphide) and mixtures of carbon tetrachloride and carbon disulfide. None of these has adequate warning properties, yet their toxic effects can include permanent central nervous system damage, heart and vascular disease and lung edema as well as cancer.
The increased use of these fumigants and increases in the handling of fumigated grain, coupled with the insidious nature of these toxicants makes it imperative that employers take special care in the evaluation of their grain handling facilities and transit carriers (e.g., truck trailer, railroad cars and barges) via quantitative test methods common to industrial hygiene practice for the protection of affected employees.
Emphasis should be placed on the careful monitoring of grain shipments and storage facilities that are subject to fumigation and the protection of potentially exposed employees. A table of substances that have been used as fumigants is attached for your information.
Please assure that all area offices will receive this information.
FOOTNOTE(1) Many of these substances are not currently registered for use as fumigants. Contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for information on currently registered material.
FOOTNOTE(2) Aluminum and magnesium phosphide are solid substances that react with moisture to produce phosphine gas. At high concentrations, phosphine is spontaneously combustible.
FOOTNOTE(3) Calcium cyanide, a solid, reacts with acids to produce HCN, a gas.