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OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins
Grain Fumigant

March 14, 1984




  • Director
  • Directorate of Field Operations


  • Director
  • Directorate of Technical Support


  • Health Hazard Information - Grain Fumigant

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.


Substances That Have Been Used as Fumigants1
Fumigant and Chemical Structure Physical State of Fumigant as it is Applied Approx Boiling Point (C)
Acrylonitrile (CH2=CHCN) Liquid 77.3
Aluminum phosphide (AlP)2 Solid  
Calcium cyanide (Ca(CN)2)3 Solid (gas)  
Carbon disulfide (CS2) Liquid 46.5
Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) Liquid 76.7
Chloroform (CHCl3) Liquid 61.62
Chloropicrin (CCl3NO2) Liquid 112
Cyanogen bromide (BrCN) Liquid 61-62
Cyanogen chloride (ClCN) Gas 13.8
1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (CH2BrCHBrCh2Cl) Liquid 196
1,3-Dichloropropene (CHCl=CHCH2Cl) Liquid 108
Ethylene dibromide (CH2BrCH2Br) Liquid 131-132
Ethylene dichloride (CH2ClCH2Cl) Liquid 83-84
Ethylene oxide (CH2 - CH2) Gas 10.7
Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) Liquid (gas) 26
Magnesium phosphide (Mg3P2) Solid  
Methylbromide (CH3Br) Gas 4.5
Methylene chloride (CH2Cl2) Liquid 40
Naphthalene (C10H8) Solid  
Para-dichlorobenzene (C6H4Cl2) Solid  
Phosphine (PH3) Gas -87
Propylene dichloride (CH2ClCHClCH2) Liquid 95-96
Propylene oxide (CH2 - CH-CH3) Gas -10
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) Gas 55
Sulfuryl fluoride (SO2F2) Gas -55
1,1,1-trichloroethane (CH3CCl3) Liquid 74

Source: American National Standard for respiratory protection during fumigation, ANSI Z88.3-1983

1Many 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.

2Aluminum and magnesium phosphide are solid substances that react with moisture to produce phosphine gas. At high concentrations, phosphine is spontaneously combustible.

3Calcium cyanide, a solid, reacts with acids to produce HCN, a gas.

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