Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A friend called to ask for help on an issue related to her pregnancy. Do you know anyone who might be able to provide advice? Here is the situation:
A bad termite infestation has been discovered in her apartment, as well as the other units in her block in San Franciso. The entire block of apartments will need to be tented and sealed while a pressurized gas called Vikane gas is pumped in over a period of 3 days to kill the termites. The active ingredient in the gas, which is supposed to be quite noxious, is sulfuryl flouride. All building occupants will have to vacate the premises for 3-4 days, taking all foodstuffs and clothing with them as the gas can contaminate those items. Apparently, the gas can also go into any fiber containing furniture items - mattresses, pillows, etc. Once it settles in these items, it can take 45 days to dissipate.

My friend is just at the end of her first trimester of pregnancy. She's concerned about whether the exposure to after-gas effects is likely to cause harm to her fetus. She's looked up whatever literature she can find, but there's not much of it, and it's inconclusive. The gas is sufficiently noxious that people who have gone into a treated area too soon have been sickened and/or died.

The manufacturer says this:

Will Vikane affect my pregnancy?

Your fumigator is required to test the air in your home using specialized equipment to ensure that the Vikane level is below the EPA requirement before allowing you to re-enter your home. The EPA requirement is 1 ppm or less in all breathing zones. At such a level, no fetal effects or long-term health effects would be expected.

That description does not give my friend enough precision or satisfaction.

So, the options she is considering are:
1) Move to a new place (the landlord will release them from the lease, but finding something new is a challenge. They prefer not to move at this time, but will do so if it is unsafe.
2) Remove all fiber furniture before the fumigation and put it into storage, then go back a week later.
3) ???

She'd love to understand the potential side effects and hazards of the Vikane gas a little better. Is there anyone reading this who might be able to help provide advice on the pregnancy or toxicity side of things?


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