Fumigation can be a tricky process even for a veteran pest professional, not only in preparation, application and clean-up, but also from a respiratory safety perspective. Personal protection is often a must — but how can you minimise the risks and maximise your breathing safety?
Fumigation is a very wide and varied field of pest management. It may concern a small container, a large silo or an entire ship, for instance. It may be done in order to prevent infestation or for extermination of pests already present at the site. It might involve completely empty spaces or holds filled with a commodity. But no matter the size and extent of the fumigation job, many processes entail the handling and application of hazardous materials and chemicals. That’s where personal respiratory protection comes into the picture.
Respiratory protection comes in many forms, the simplest being a half-mask respirator fitted with suitable filters for both particles and gas. A step up is a battery-powered, micro-processor controlled fan unit that delivers clean, filtered air to a face-piece. More rarely required are supplied-air respirators that rely on a remote source of clean air from a compressor or pump.
By far the most common breathing protection used by pest control professionals is a good-quality, rugged rubber mask with filters. Such masks are often made of silicone rubber for good facial seal and secure fit, softness and non- allergenic characteristics.
Fitted with filters, this type of respirator will inevitably place some extra work of breathing on the wearer and therefore it is important to select a respirator with the lowest breathing resistance, both inhalation resistance through the filters, and exhalation resistance through the valves.
It is also important to make sure that the respirator can be used with other safety equipment, such as goggles, hard hats, ear muffs and protective suits or hoods.
Half-face pieces are common, covering only the nose and mouth, but if eye protection is also required it may be worth investing in a full-face mask with a clear visor, rather than a half-mask and separate goggles.
The filters are as vital as the respirator body itself. The first consideration is a particle filter. Fumigation might sound like it only has to do with gas or vapours, but fumigation processes often include both dry and wet particles. Dry particles may comprise not only chemicals in powder form, but also nuisance dust, smoke, mould, bacteria, fungi and other materials. Wet particles come in the form of aerosols, sprays and mists. This is where it becomes important to choose a particle filter that is not affected by liquids or moisture. A good particle filter will catch particles down to a very small size – smaller than 0.0003mm (0.3 microns), which covers not just mould and bacteria, but even viruses.
But there is one thing a particle filter cannot stop – gas and vapour. And many of the pest controller’s chemicals are volatile, so you will need an effective gas filter as well. The type of gas filter depends on the chemical compounds used, but a good all-round gas filter of the ABE type will be of use in many pest control and fumigation exercises.
The ABE stands for:
- A – Organic vapour, such as solvents
- B – Inorganic gas, such as chlorine and hydrogen cyanide
- E – Acid gas, such as sulphur dioxide.
A good quality silicone face-piece fitted with a high-efficiency particle filter and an ABE class 1 filter will provide excellent respiratory protection in countless pest control and fumigation operations. For confirmation that required protection levels are achieved, individual fit and leakage testing should be undertaken. The Sundström Pro-Kit from Safety Equipment Australia offers excellent protection in even the most challenging circumstances.