State handles fumigation complaints
My neighbor's home was recently tent-fumigated. It was a windy night and by next morning, there were two tears in the tarpaulin allowing the poisonous Vikane gas to escape. My daughter reported it to the termite company and the response was like "... so what?" My daughter felt ill and her son had to go to the doctor's that day. Who can I report this incident to since poisonous gas was involved?
Answer: You should report this to the state Department of Agriculture, which certifies pesticide control operators, such as termite fumigators.
On Oahu, call 973-9401; Big Island, 974-4140; Maui, 873-3555; Kauai, 274-3069.
Robert Boesch, the department's Pesticides Program manager, explained that two hazardous gases are involved in structural fumigation -- sulfuryl fluoride and chloropicrin (tear gas).
Pest control companies are required to post signs with phone numbers to contact in the event of an emergency, he said.
"Tears in tarpaulins and tarpaulins billowing in the wind should be reported, especially if people experience irritation and a pungent odor, which may be caused by the chloropicrin gas," Boesch said.
He explained that chloropicrin is used as a "warning agent" -- introduced into a structure before the fumigant is released -- to keep people from entering, as well as to make sure that the structure is vacant and no pets remain inside.
He said other situations that require immediate reporting are if you hear conversation, coughing, sneezing or animal sounds coming from inside a tent.
In those cases, and if the pest control operator doesn't respond immediately, Boesch said to call 911.
The Department of Agriculture will investigate if the operator does not respond or return a call within 15 minutes, or if no signs are posted with emergency contact numbers.
Other concerns related to fumigation include gas residues being present in a structure if it is not allowed to "thoroughly aerate," Boesch said.
The structure must be closed and must have signs indicating it is under fumigation for at least six hours following the opening of the tarp, he said. Windows and doors must be opened following the removal of the tent to allow the gases to escape.
The operator must then return to the structure and test the air with a device to clear the structure for occupancy, he said.
"During the aeration time, doors and other entrances into the structure must be secured so that only the pest control operator can enter," he said.
Pest control operators are required to follow "many other instructions ... to assure fumigation is done safely and effectively."
To our neighbors in Kaneohe, near the police station, who keep chickens in their back yard. The chickens make noise all night long, keeping us and our baby awake. -- No Name
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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