1. Crop Care

Illegal use in Rice Export

Vipin Saini
Vipin Saini
Rice
Rice Export

Can sulfural floride be used as a fumigant for fumigation of export containers of rice? The answer is a big NO. 

Interestingly, its use has increased as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was phased out because of harm to the ozone layer. It is an alternative to the use of phosphine, which is acutely toxic. 

Possible use of this fumigant is being reported in the country for fumigation of export containers likely to carry rice for export. However, sulfural floride is not registered or approved by the pesticide regulatory authority in India for the same. 

Such uses of chemicals for food commodities, whether for export or otherwise pose health hazards. This will also lead to harming our country’s export potential of rice globally. That too when our country is already facing concerns of rice being exported to the European Union due to presence of pesticide residues.  

There is a need to educate agricultural produce exporters in the use of post-harvest and transport norms of crop protection of such commodities. 

Sulfuryl fluoride is an inorganic compound with the formula SO2F2. It is an easily condensed gas and has properties more similar to sulfur hexafluoride than sulfuryl chloride, being resistant to hydrolysis even up to 150 °C. It is neurotoxic and a potent greenhouse gas, but is widely used as a fumigant insecticide to control termites. 

Sulfuryl fluoride is in widespread use as a structural fumigant insecticide to control drywood termites. Less commonly, it is also reported to be used to control rodents, powder post beetles, death watch beetles, bark beetles, and bedbugs.  

Interestingly, its use has increased as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was phased out because of harm to the ozone layer. It is an alternative to the use of phosphine, which is acutely toxic. 

Inhalation of sulfuryl fluoride is hazardous and may result in respiratory irritation, pulmonary edema, nausea, abdominal pain, central nervous system depression, numbness in the extremities, muscle twitching, seizures, and death. These high exposures occurred when people entered into structures illegally during fumigation or after insufficient aeration. Epidemiological studies showed that fumigation workers who used sulfuryl fluoride showed neurological effects, which included reduced performance on cognitive tests and pattern memory tests, and reduced olfactory function. 

Methyl bormide banning for fumigation purpose globally needs to be further looked into as it is actually believed to have the industry use it on its own. Possibly when known to be used in other countries or reported to be a requirement for export of such products to the importing country.  

Such use of unapproved chemicals raises eyebrows as it impacts food safety and health of the public in general.  

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