Are you aware of the health dangers of fumigation?

Wednesday August 25 2010

Fumigators too must protect themselves from the fumes. Incase of accidental exposure, one should take milk to reduce the toxity of the poison inhaled.

Many people access premises that have been fumigated before they are safe to be occupied. Sometimes there are no obvious side-effects and a person may go away thinking that all is well yet the chemicals enter the body and affect one’s health in the long run, writes Agnes K. Namaganda

Many fumigation companies do not warn their clients enough about the imminent danger the fumigation chemicals have on their health, and even when they do, John Ssesanga of Sim Farm Supply and Fumigation Services on Nakivubo Mews says that “unlike whites, Ugandan clients are inclined to take these fears and precautionary measures lightly.”

“We have so much to worry about, like poverty and hunger, to be bothered by the threat of fumigation chemicals,” remarked Jim Kato a cobbler who was being kept from entering a building where he keeps his merchandise because it had been fumigated and human entry was prohibited for some hours. He forced his way in, picked his business and exited.

According to Mr Ssesanga, it might take about four hours for a premise fumigated with chemicals like lava, doom, icon and dash to be fit for human occupation. And several health effects-immediate and long-term- are associated with doing otherwise.

“Inhaling those fumes usually has instant side-effects like coughing, nausea, vomiting, secretion of more saliva than usual, sweating, red eyes, itchy skin, laboured breathing and a running stomach, ” says Dr Henry Bukenya, a physician with Mulago Hospital. He advises taking a nutritional fatty diet like milk as the first aid at home.

“Milk is an anti-dote that contains whole nutrients that help to reduce on the toxicity of the poison inhaled.” If symptoms persist, Dr Bukenya recommends that one immediately goes to a health centre.


“At the hospital the stomach will emptied using oral or IV (intravenous) medication, a process called regurgitation such that the concentration of the chemicals in the body is reduced. A cortisteroid (usually a drug called hydrocortisone) will also be given to dilute the poison further and reduce on the possible damage the chemicals might have on the liver and the kidney as we carry out tests to look for the exact compounds in the poison that the person has been exposed to.”

However, sometimes there are no obvious side-effects and a person may go away thinking that all is well yet the chemicals enter the body and affect your health in some way.

Mr Ssesanga talks of two colleagues in the fumigation business that died after long-term exposure to these chemicals since “most of us did not take appropriate dressing that seriously. They had symptoms like boils and wounds that wouldn’t heal and doctors said were the result of these chemicals.”

He warns that a person has to be dressed as required if they must enter the premises during the exercise or before the required time has expired. “Just like the fumigators, you must wear gloves, overalls, goggles, boots, and something over your nose and mouth because even drops of the chemical on the skin or an environment with the chemicals in the air can cause a reaction to your skin. On exposure, a person should immediately see a medical practitioner for a check-up. They usually give an anti-dose to remove probable poisons from the body and this takes about two days.”

Stubborn pests
It’s not easy to get rid of some pests like bats with the recommended fumigation chemicals and so, clients keep complaining. To keep their credibility and of course, their business, fumigators may use illegal chemicals like Dursban and pirinex which Mr Ssesanga says permanently get rid of the nuisance but while endangering the health of humans if the premises are inhabited before one week elapses.

Improper mixing
A farm supplies dealer as well, Mr Ssesanga cautions people about the widespread danger of using garden pest-killing chemicals like Cypermethlyn and Ambush to fumigate domestic premises. “After spraying garden pests, a person who has a problem with persistent bed-bugs might use these very effective but discouraged chemicals. And instead of following the recommended say 10mls per litre of water, out of anger will mix the whole 100ml bottle in one litre of water. So an environment that would ideally take four hours to clear of all the toxic fumes takes a day. But the person spends four hours and re-enters the house and even goes ahead to propose it to friends and relatives with the same problem. This sometimes is the cause of all the unexplainable health conditions that people are suffering from.”

What suits the premises
He also says that each location has a suitable and recommended fumigation chemical. For example a hospital is expected to have patients all the time who have to be attended to yet it also has bugs that have to be dealt with so it has a special chemical. A supermarket because it has food items is fumigated but with a different chemical that will not require it to be completely emptied and offices and homes too have adequate chemicals.

To stress the danger of these chemicals even more, Mr Ssesanga says that according to public health guidelines, only one bottle is supposed to be displayed in a shop and it should be enclosed behind glass only for the purpose of viewing. Of course this is a far cry from the way most shops that sell such chemicals do but it gives an idea of how hazardous these chemicals are even when sealed off in containers and how seriously you should take the danger they pose to your health.

To be on the safe side, make sure you know what your fumigation company is using to disinfect your home. Sometimes they will not be open because some of these chemicals are banned for household use so if you have notorious pests, it is possible that your fumigator is probably going to use notorious means get rid of them, so stay out that house for a week, if you can. Better yet, do some research and find out what chemicals should be used and what shouldn’t so that when the fumigators come, you know what to take and what not to take.