Fluoride Action Network

Sulfuryl Fluoride: EPA Report on Deaths and Safety

Source: Environmental Protection Agency | December 12th, 2016 | By the Office of Inspector General
Industry type: Pesticides


Title of report from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General:
Additional Measures Can Be Taken to Prevent Deaths and Serious Injuries From Residential Fumigations
Report No. 17-P-0053
Contributors: Jeffrey Harris, Jee W.Kim, Calvin Lin, Denton Stafford, Steven Weber.

Since 2002, at least 11 deaths and two serious injuries occurred during residential fumigations in the two U.S. states with the most fumigation treatments — California and Florida. Compliance with current pesticide use requirements does not always prevent adverse impacts. We identified multiple factors that contributed to these adverse impacts, including:

(1) no requirement to secure tenting around structures undergoing fumigation,

(2) ineffective devices used to detect pesticide levels inside of structures, and

(3) failure to attend mandatory training for residential pesticide applicators who conduct fumigations.

In addition, we identified other program control risks that, if addressed, could reduce the risk of future deaths and serious injuries:

  • The EPA could designate residential fumigation as a priority area for enforcement, with special emphasis placed on locations such as Puerto Rico, which has a high demand for residential fumigations but lacks information to effectively oversee such fumigations. Data on sales and use of sulfuryl fluoride in Puerto Rico are not reported and are unknown.
  • The EPA could require site-specific residential fumigation management plans. Such plans can prevent accidents, identify appropriate emergency procedures, and demonstrate compliance with requirements.
  • The EPA could complete work to develop a comprehensive national pesticide incident database to monitor residential fumigation risks. The EPA has an ongoing pesticide incident database initiative to collect data, but there is no scheduled completion date.

Table 2: Analysis of incident reports from California and Florida (exposure to sulfuryl fluoride)





CA 3/7/2005 Death Pest control operators heard someone calling for help and attempting to exit the tarped structure. The crew pulled a woman out from under the tarps and contacted 911.The woman was transported to the hospital, where she died.The fumigation company was found to not have cleared all persons be fore fumigating.
CA 6/2/2007 Serious Injury When the pest control operator returned to aerate a house fumigated 3 days earlier, the operator found a man asleep on the couch; he had broken into and ransacked the house.
CA 12/19/2008 Death Pest control operator found a tarp seam and back door open and a woman inside a fumigated home. Police took custody of the woman, but she collapsed and was pronounced dead soon after arriving at a hospital.
CA 6/11/2010 Death A man was found dead on a carport sofa one day after fumigation. The deceased (who had Alzheimer’s disease) was last seen near a treatment site, which was also his residence.
CA 1/17/2011 Death A man was found dead in the fumigated home. The police report indicate d the man was a tenant at a nearby sober living center who attempted earlier to enter the center drunk and after curfew.
CA 11/24/2011 Death A man collapsed and died after a suspected burglary of a fumigated home (several large tears on the tarp and a broken window indicated an illegal entry to the home).
CA 4/22/2014 Death When a pest control operator arrived to begin aeration on a fumigated home, he found a deceased man on the patio under the fumigation tarp. The man was not a resident of the home.
CA 12/29/2014 Death When a pest control operator was checking the pesticide levels to certify the house for reentry, a man’s body was found in a bathroom. The victim may have formerly lived at the residence; however, the property owner told police the home was vacant at the time of fumigation.
FL 1/9/2002 Death A tenant was found dead in the fumigated apartment complex. The authorities concluded the man committed suicide.
FL 10/10/2002 Death A tenant purposefully evaded detection during the final fumigation inspection walk – through. The tenant left a suicide note.
FL 12/17/2014 Death A woman was found ill in an alley after entering a fumigated home. She was taken to a hospital  where she died.
FL 1/16/2015 Death A fumigator found the body of a deceased woman who used a chair to enter the fumigated house through a window.
FL 8/16/2015 Serious Injury A family of five was exposed to sulfuryl fluoride after entering their recently fumigated home that was cleared for re – occupancy. The pest control operator did not have working clearance devices, and had not attended mandatory stewardship training.

*Report available online at http://fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/sulfuryl-fluoride-deaths..epa-report-2016.pdf