See FAN’s background on Sulfuryl fluoride

OAKLAND, Calif.— Environmental groups filed a formal legal petition today urging the California Air Resources Board to phase out the insecticide sulfuryl fluoride because of its significant contribution to global warming.

California is the world’s largest emitter of sulfuryl fluoride, which is 4,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

“Phasing out sulfuryl fluoride would provide the same climate benefits as taking 1 million cars off our roads every year,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “California’s air regulators have a legal and moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gases that are helping to drive catastrophic global warming.”

Sulfuryl fluoride is used primarily in the fumigation of drywood termites. Approximately 3 million pounds of the gas was used in California in 2021. Use of sulfuryl fluoride has drastically increased despite numerous effective alternatives.

Recent research has revealed that sulfuryl fluoride’s impact on climate change is larger than previously known. It stays in the atmosphere eight times longer than previously assumed, for a total of 36 years.

“It’s the job of our regulators to protect Californians from dangerous air pollution, and that includes climate-warming pesticides,” said Jane Sellen, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. “Dangerous fumigants like sulfuryl fluoride pose a grave threat to public health and global warming and we need state air resource officials to act now.”

Sulfuryl fluoride poses dangerous threats to human health. It is classified as a toxic air contaminant and is a neurotoxin, causing illness, disabilities and death.

There are several viable alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride for controlling drywood termites and other pests. Heating affected areas to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for roughly 30 minutes has proven a safe and effective method of eradicating termites. Localized treatments using orange oil, baiting, microwaves or electric pulses are also cost-effective alternatives.

In addition to asking the board to phase out sulfuryl fluoride, the petition seeks to add the fumigant to California’s greenhouse gas emission inventory, where its use can be better monitored.

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