Termites, air pollution, and ozone depletion

Excerpts from the book below.  Ozone depletion is also one of the 9 boundaries we must not cross.

Klein, Hilary Dole, and Adrian M. Wenner 2001. Tiny Game Hunting: Environmentally Healthy Ways to Trap and Kill the Pests in Your House and Garden,  University of California Press.

If you suspect a termite colony is in the ground near your house (wood in the woodpile, tree stumps, or fence posts show signs of being eaten), get out a shovel and start digging. You can’t totally expose a very large colony, but you can create access to it for ants and other termite enemies.

People commonly buy and sell at least one or two homes during their lifetime, and renters move even more frequently; but little information is kept on the pesticide-use history of a dwelling. How are you to know, when you move into a house, that it has been treated with gallons of chlordane, not once, but over and over again?

When a house is tented and fumigated, methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) is pumped into it. These are among the most toxic and hazardous pesticides used today, a dangerous source of pesticidal air pollution that may result in unsafe exposures for people living nearby. Moreover, a United Nations scientific panel estimated that methyl bromide is responsible for from 5 to 10 percent of ozone depletion worldwide. In 1995, almost 600,000 pounds of this chemical were injected into thousands of California homes and businesses. Furthermore, according to Californians for Pesticide Reform, methyl bromide levels outside homes under fumigation may exceed the California safety standard sevenfold. And methyl bromide can be detected inside other closed houses up to 100 feet away from a fumigated structure. Passersby beware! Hazardous vapors drifting through empty pipes into neighboring houses have killed a number of people.

Used much more frequently than methyl bromide, Vikane is an extremely toxic nerve poison. Researchers have found that it can be absorbed by many household materials and released for up to forty days after fumigation.

Fumigation only kills the termites in the house and does not affect underground nests. Houses can be reinfested immediately afterward, although evidence that a colony exists then may take a few years to show up. And often after pesticides are used, people do not attend to the important tasks of monitoring and detection.

People twenty years ago might be forgiven for using hazardous substances to “save” their homes. But today a variety of nontoxic treatments for termites are available. Call around to locate exterminators who use them and give them your business. The more we demand safe treatments that will not poison our water and air, the more operators will begin to use those treatments.

Traditionally, the treatment for subterranean termites has been to inject insecticides into the soil around and beneath houses. Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as chlordane were used routinely for termites (and ants) in millions of homes. A known carcinogen, chlordane remains active for twenty-five years. It is no longer on the market, but its use (and overuse) may be one of the twentieth century’s great pesticide disasters.Pages 94-95

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