Fumigation

Introduction

Fumigation is a procedure that is used throughout the world to eradicate pests that infest all types of goods, commodities, warehouses, processing factories and transport vehicles including ships and their cargoes.

Fumigation is a treatment method extensively used in eradicating pests and diseases in agricultural produce in many countries. Although this method, especially the use of methyl bromide (CH3Br), is acknowledged to have the potential to negatively impact upon the environment, fumigation continues to be considered as the appropriate method to free agricultural produce from pests and diseases. The Montreal Protocol continues to provide for the use of methyl bromide in fumigation activities, particularly for pre-shipment treatment and quarantine purposes.

Many countries require certain commodities to be fumigated prior to export. As evidence that the commodities have been fumigated, importing countries require the fumigation provider or an endorsing government authority to issue fumigation certificates that clearly details the treatment that has been undertaken on the commodity. Ineffective fumigations can impact severely on Malaysian export trade by putting in question the product integrity of Malaysian agricultural exports.

Malaysia is committed to addressing the issue of ineffective quarantine fumigations on its exports. To this end, Malaysia has established a Fumigation Accreditation Scheme (to be known as the Scheme) for export fumigators with a view to ensuring that all quarantine fumigations are undertaken in accordance with world’s best practice as outlined in the Australian Methyl Bromide Fumigation Standard (to be known as the Standard).

What are fumigants and how do they work?

Fumigants are gases, which are toxic to the target infestation. They can be applied as gas, liquid or in solid formulations, but after vaporisation from liquids or reaction products from solids, always act in the gaseous phase. They act either as respiratory poisons, or as suffocates in the case of controlled or modified atmospheres. On release, they mix with air at a molecular level. They are capable of rapidly diffusing from one area to another and through commodities and buildings.

Fumigants should not be confused with smokes, which are solid particles in air, or with mists, aerosols or fogs, which are liquid droplets, of various sizes, in air. Smokes, mists, aerosols or fogs are not fumigants as they are unable to diffuse (i.e. they do not mix with air at a molecular level) and do not reach deep-seated infestations in commodities or structures.

The fumigant gases used to carry out the fumigation process are numerous, but the most commonly used currently for the treatment of ships cargoes are phosphine (phosphate) and methyl bromide.

Others used are carbon dioxide and more recently sulfuryl fluoride, which is starting to replace the use of methyl bromide.

  • This article sets out the outcomes to be met by a fumigation company and an accredited fumigator when performing quarantine fumigation treatments on export goods using methyl bromide under the Scheme.

  • This article is limited to the treatment of goods, subject to quarantine, by methyl bromide fumigation. The classes of goods covered by this paper are:

    •general cargo; and timber.

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