I would like to refer you to an external article about a 10-Year-Old Boy Suffers Brain Damage After Home Fumigated prior to proceeding to the original article below. Obviously, this is an extreme case when it shows a clear damage. However, mere logic tells that there should be numerous more or less obvious injuries which do not show damage to health of those involved in fumigation’s this evidently.
Original Article Below.
I think at least 80% of people do costly mistakes while treating their houses against drywood termites. Some fumigate when they did not even know that they had other options, and some end up doing meaningless local treatments (Orange Oil, etc), which not only allow damage to continue in inaccessible areas but also are a waste of money and time. Instead of spending that much money and time, you can spend less than an hour and do your own research from the info below. There are two videos below with comments. After watching the videos and reading the comments you should have more or less a clear insight about fumigations vs. other types of drywood termite treatments, especially those called “green termite treatments”. This will help you to avoid any problems that may occur while doing termite work on your house or another property provided that you mastered and comprehended the concepts and facts brought below properly. Remember that whomever you call or trust to do termite work on your house, they will try to promote their method of treatment and make as much money as possible. Meanwhile, if you are educated and aware about different methods of drywood termite control, the pros and cons of each, and most importantly if you are not sold on local treatments which are being sold as if they are complete ones, then this could be avoided.
Unlike it is presented on above video where they just promote their product, it is a complex process and very confusing for many—even, I would say, most termite inspectors who have worked in this industry for already twenty years or more. If even they are confused, how could the home owner not be? This is especially after seeing those scary tents on their neighbors’ houses while all other type of termite works does not show that easily since there are only trucks parked in front of house without huge tents. From my practice, I know that almost every homeowner does not know what type of work is better to have done on their property even if they claim that they know it. This is normal, since when we take our cars to a mechanic, we do not know how he will be fixing it. At the same time, if a termite professional informed the homeowner that he could do either fumigation, complete heat, or combined natural treatments and gave the same warranties and honest information about the pros and cons of each, then that should have solved the problem. However, the problem is this type of “marketing” which to me is not marketing at all. Everyone tries to push his or her type of work, claiming that his type of treatment is “the best” while others are saying the same about theirs. Consequently, instead of consumers choosing what is best for them, they end up trying to avoid as much false advertisement as possible. This is one of the reasons why termite inspectors are labeled as crooks since confusion and ignorance and/or being pressured by their companies to use only one type of treatment results in dishonesty. Why it results in dishonesty is clear: if an inspector is pressured by the company he works to sell only fumigation’s, then even if he knows that some preventative and local treatments should suffice, still he may lie and say fumigation is the only thing that works. On the other hand, if another inspector works for an “Orange Oil” company which forces inspectors to sell only this type of work, they tell everyone that orange oil “travels” (one of the most hilarious things I have heard in this business), is a complete treatment, and there is not need to tent or do other work. The truth is that Orange Oil is just another type of local treatment.
In reality, there are almost always different options to solve the same problem, in this case control drywood termite infestation and damage. Almost all houses can be treated with similar degree of success with different methods, provided that they are not localized drywood termite treatments which are waste of time and money, since the entire house will need to be done sooner or later anyway.
So, below are our comments which hopefully will open lots of eyes. You can go to the minutes and seconds (12:45 means 12th minute and 45th second of the video) below and see the comments I make about what is being said in the video. This is the video which entered virtually every home in Southern California and which not only informed, but mostly confused people so much since 90% of the information is a false advertisement. Because of this, millions of people ended up putting toxic chemicals in their homes while in many case it was not needed at all, or was an overkill, or alternative treatments would be enough or even better. This is because certain types of houses and different degrees of drywood termite infestation levels, progression and predictions or even any foreseeable future damage have to be considered along with different options to make a reasonable decision. I have even seen houses where entire stall shower was rotten and was falling down, and they fumigated because thought tenting solves all the problem since covers the whole house. This is meanwhile obviously fumigation has nothing to do with rotten wood. Lot more similar cases happen when people think if they tent it will kill subterranean termites, but fumigation has nothing to do with subterranean termites. So, people see the tent in neighborhood or when they drive, and as soon as they have any termite or other problem in their house, they want to tent too. That image – the tent on someone else’s house is on everyone’s subconscious, and everyone should take it out of their mind to think clearly.
Possibly these unnecessary fumigations caused health challenges for millions and millions of people in the USA while made billions and billions for Dow Agro Sciences and many unethical pest control companies. Many pest and termite control companies push fumigations because they do not understand the details of it, but this definitely does not concern to the fine folks of Dow Agro Sciences since they are too smart for that. So, let’s proceed with the comments of what is told on above video.
0:12 – WRONG. There are two types of treatments available: whole structure fumigations and “other types of treatments.” However, not all “other types of treatments” are local treatments only. For instance, full heat is not a type of a local treatment at all. Refer to the Structural Pest Control Board’s following link which refers to information provided by the government, not a company or even an educational institution. The same is more or less true of other treatments that penetrate into inaccessible areas as well as use drywood termite detection tools. Refer to this link which shows another governmental guideline.
So, the lie Dow does for already over 10 years starts right from the beginning!
0:31 – Heating is not a spot treatment; it is a complete approved whole-house treatment. Instead of placing fumigant after covering the house with a tent, you heat up the entire house and get rid of drywood termites that way. Yes, it is much easier to do a good quality fumigation than a good quality heat job, but it does not change the above assertion. Even state and EPA websites mention this clearly. Many people do not heat up their houses since it seems too simple, and thus not trustworthy while fumigation seems a sophisticated method and they think deserves more trust. In reality however, doing a good quality heat job is much more complex than tenting a house. While houses with wood flooring and many other peculiarities are not suited well for the heat treatment, at the same time, heat may be used in a limited area unlike fumigation. Along with its disadvantages, it also has many advantages when you cannot tent entire buildings (because they are attached to other buildings or in cases where there are multiple units but one of the tenants does not like tenting). In this case, you cannot tent, and the building will suffer, However, since you can use the heating technique and skip only that unit or one or more areas which cannot be fumigated then it will solve those problems. The problem with heating though is that again, it is very difficult to do a good quality heat job.
0:48 – Spot treatments are not always limited to detected areas only. Just because you can do local drywood termite treatments with these methods, it does not mean you have to do only local treatment(s) or cannot use local treatment methods to do more or less complete treatment(s)! If you treat almost an entire house by using one or more localized treatment methods such as Orange Oil, Premise Foam, or Termidor Foam to almost every single piece of wood in the house it means a more or less full treatment was done! While it’s foolish to use Termidor or Premise to all wood members in the house since chemical residue will make it much worse than fumigation, but you can do that with natural-type of treatment methods even if not checking inaccessible areas and finding hidden infestations. In this case when drywood termites are not found, they still can be treated since you can apply these materials to the wood using methods such as spraying, drilling and treating, foaming, and other techniques. Just because the termiticide will not penetrate through the entire piece of wood, it does not mean it will be ineffective unlike what they say on above video. Though, this is correct only for certain types of Termiticdes. Termites feed each other and those who will get the termiticide while eating wood from the surface of the it will infest other termites who stay deep inside the wood. Also, good quality preventative flashing prevents not only from future infestation of drywood termites but also does not allow their colonies to move. During warmer months drywood termites tend to nest near exterior part of the house. But when it gets colder, they drill though the wood and move their colonies to more interior part of the house. However, even if preventative or elimination flashing will not directly hit a drywood termite colony, when termites will try to relocate, it will almost guarantee their exposure to these Termiticide. This is why our combined green termite treatments give better result than fumigations. We have way higher percentage of call-backs from fumigations than from combined drywood termite natural and green treatments. This is meanwhile we tell home owners that since we do not see all drywood termites, we expect many of them to appear later within a year or so and get rid of them at that time. After these follow-up treatments when the house is very well prevented from future infestations during the initial treatment, it will be controlled properly.
1:13 – Yes even if only twenty drywood termites are left alive, they will re-establish the colony unless prevention and/or residual treatments are done! This is true only in case of fumigation, Orange Oil and Heat since they do not have any residual or preventative effects. However, virtually all other treatment methods except those just mentioned include prevention due to their residual effects. Fumigation however has zero preventative capabilities. So, if they criticize the other treatments why they assume that only those without preventative effect will be used?
Also, the above statement assumes that fumigation will eliminate all drywood colonies completely no matter where these termite colonies are or at least inclines it has a better chance of eliminating all drywood termites. However, it is obvious that even though a tent covers the entire house, it does not mean drywood termite colonies in every corner or area will be treated equally! Imagine if you were to smoke a turkey would you assume that the smoke from the smoker would penetrate all the meat, bones, and every piece of that turkey same way? Of course not! The skin and surface would be easily smoked which is where fumigation word came from (in the past they were just putting smoke fumes in the houses for bugs), however the more distant parts of the body would not necessarily be the same way. So, covering the whole house is not a favorable argument of “full termite extermination” similar to placing the whole turkey in a smoker is not an indication the entire turkey will get smoked properly. Now imagine you cut that turkey in pieces and cook or fry it piece by piece without placing it completely in a smoker. Will this or smoking method make it more probable to achieve as much of an encompassing treatment as possible? Why smoking takes many hours to finish, but if you cut it in pieces, you can do the same in minutes?
In practice more often than not fumigation does not eliminate all the colonies, and even if it does, in many cases it leaves more than 20 termites alive which equals partial extermination. This is because it has to be done perfectly to “kill all the bugs”. However, to do a perfect fumigation one needs to spend 3-5 times more time on houses. In practice good fumigations have roughly 80% success rate which in many cases is satisfactory. However, new hoses near the coastal area cannot rely on this 80% success rate which is not enough for them. At the same time worse quality fumigations may have around 30-50% success rate which means you leave your house, they put highest toxic chemical there, you end up spending money, and it is all for nothing. Even if people were to waste money, why would it also result them being exposed to harsh chemicals? Drywood termites on exposed wood on garage, attic, or open ceilings are eliminated best during tenting. But you have to do top quality fumigation to completely eliminate those termites that are in far corners of partition walls, remote angles of two-story open ceiling houses, etc. To do one fumigation in one day, you need a three-man crew to install good sills and enough fans, water the soil around the house, double check for cracks, and put fumigant measuring devices on all major remote corners, not to mention apply enough gas, which is extremely expensive. You can always compensate those by putting lot more expensive gas, but then it is illegal, and nobody wants to spend more from his pocket and at the same time face huge fines. In practice, fumigators tent at least three houses a day to give cheaper prices to their prime contractors.
Many homeowners who mistakenly think that every fumigation is the same and want the cheapest or middle prices contribute a lot to this “phenomenon” too.
This is why when I was working for a major international company as a termite inspector, they were forcing me and all other inspectors to put on the work order where specifically we found drywood termites so that the fumigator could direct their fans towards to those areas to make sure drywood termites would be exterminated where we found them.
If they knew that fumigation would eliminate all drywood termites no matter what, they would not need to make sure fans would direct the gas to the specific termite spots we found. So, in practice, fumigation is another local or limited treatment with no residual, no prevention, and with a highly toxic gas unless it is done perfectly, and/or is combined with preventative treatments such as borate foaming.
1:39 – Why are they drilling with a 6″ drill? Every single foamer I know has a tip of at least three times smaller than this drill has!
2:30 – You don’t have to find all drywood termites to get rid of them! Again, there are tons of preventative treatments without a need to find them all. Also, getting rid of all drywood termites is ONE OF THE METHODS of controlling them properly! If the termiticide you apply is applied only on the surface of wood, and even only a small portion of termites come and digest it, they will later on feed it to each other. So, you can get rid of them that way. Also, even if you do not get rid of some or even none of drywood termites but apply preventative natural material on most of the wood in the house where infestations happened initially, then that will work to prevent future re-infestations. This preventative control, in most cases, is superior compared to the “killing them all” method.
Drywood termites are not cockroaches; you do not need to “kill them all” to do a good control in most cases.
They do not pose any health hazard to humans and rarely bother people.
Also, in many houses this can be important since even though drywood termite damage will not show on accessible wood members, but inaccessible wood members can be damaged or heavily infested. This is especially important on houses where local treatments were done recently or in the past which technically masks the real infestation and damage. The same is true for houses with low percentage of accessible wood members for inspection. When there are houses with recent add-ons, the same concerns to that part of structure too. Also, if an inspector does limited inspection by just looking around some areas instead of checking the entire house, then localized drywood termite treatments should not be considered seriously.
In practice however, it may be a challenge to find at least marginally intelligent persons who want to work as termite inspectors. One of the reasons for this is when you advertise “termite inspector” to hire people many do not want to apply for the job since it does not sound “cool”. They think “bug killer” is not a prestigious work while being a highly skilled. ethical and respected wood destroying organisms expert is much more difficult than get some “social science” or “psychology” junk degree.
In practice drywood and subterranean termites are almost never a pest. Pest means living organism bothering people on their residences, offices or other areas of habitat. But termites do not bother almost at all, they mainly damage the wood undetected. Termites may swarm inside houses once a year for a day or so. But they do not vector any diseases, do not bite or crawl and disappear within a day or two. Other than that, drywood termites are only of concern for doing damage to wooden structures. Also, in over 90% of houses they will not do enough considerable damage in next 2-3 years for them to need to be controlled by the “kill them all” method. If anticipated damage in next 2-3 years is not that much or virtually non-existent, and if prevention of future infestation will result in fewer termites at home, then the ones which are already there will die in 5-7 years, and the house will be in good shape now and for the long run too.
By contrast, many houses need fumigation every 4-5 years to keep them in a good state if no prevention is done because again, fumigation does not prevent infestations, Drywood termites often return to nest in houses after just a month or so. Even more, drywood termites tend to re-infest same infested areas due to their complex pheromone system which will be boring to explain in more detail here, neither there is a need for that. Most houses do not even have much drywood termite damage before they are tented at the first place. The cynicism is that around 10-20% of houses are tented after finding one wing of drywood termites and/or couple of droppings here and there.
So, in general if the house does not have any drywood termite damage and has been that way in last 10 years or so, tenting it would be plain stupid!
What’s the point of putting so much toxic chemical in the house especially when there are kids, elderly and people with health issues to stop damage when there is NONE NOW AND NONE PREDICTABLE FOR YEARS TO COME?
Why assume drywood termite damage will happen in the future when in last 20 or 30 years no damage has happened? I can tell you why! It’s funny because many in this business do not even know who they are and what is their profession. They think they are “exterminators”, “terminators”, “verminators”, “assassins of bugs”, and if they find even one wing of drywood termite in a 120 year-old house which has never been treated against any type of termites and no wood has been damaged during over a century, they still need to go and kill these 20 or so little drywood termites hiding in some corner which would die naturally in 2-3 years anyway without doing any damage at all. Well, I have a real good “revelation” to make for those Branch III termite inspectors who think if they find only one wing or couple of droppings without damage or possibility of it they have to go and tent a house — our profession is called “Wood Destroying Organisms Control“, it is not for “killing bugs” but controlling wood damage on structures caused by many organisms, and drywood termites are at the VERY end of that list!
3:15 – Yes it completely dissipates, but after how much time? Are all areas free of Vikane or sulfuryl fluoride at the same time? NO! Previously, it clearly mentioned that the gas goes inside every single piece of wood in the house. Imagine if you submerged your house in water; water would then penetrate every single piece of wood in the house. When you removed the water and dried out your house by removing water molecules, it wouldn’t happen right away. How long might it take to make a piece of wood wet? Maybe a minute after we submerged it in, say, a swimming pool. Now how long will it take for that wet wood to dry out if we leave it there? Maybe 2 or 3 days, right? So, in open areas like the living room, attic, etc., the gas will go away faster, but inside the walls, inside the wood it penetrated, it will not dissipate right away. When certification is done about the concentration of sulfur fluoride prior to certifying the house as safe for re-entry, there is no requirement to do it in inaccessible areas. Also, even though it has to be done by a computer, that rarely happens in reality. Few check the “allowable concentration,” which the state lowers every year but still cannot make it zero, since even if Ag Department comes and checks after them, the concentration by that time will be low, anyway. Once asbestos was legal, too, wasn’t it? If they made legal concentration of sulfuryl fluoride zero, then fumigations would cost may be $20,000 each, since fumigators would need to come there every day for several days or even weeks to try and find ways to remove it from inaccessible areas from where the toxicity still remained. As a result, nobody would do tenting anymore, and tons of money we—pest control operators—pay to the state would be gone, too.
Last but not least – The “Brand” advertised in this video, Vikane (Dow) (EPA Reg. No. 62719- 4-ZA), which is produced in Germany, has a slightly lower concentration of sulfuryl fluoride than Zythor (EPA Reg. No. 81824- 1-AA), which is produced in China, meaning that the latter is better. However, by some magic, Zythor is the one called “generic” and Vikane is the one accepted and called “brand name.”
Now let us see our foaming which by some “magic” generates much less percentage of call-backs than fumigations while again it is supposed to generate the callbacks since follow-up treatments are necessary for this type of work.
Well, the common wisdom hints: “Not only it matters by what method it is done, but how it is done too”. There are lots of fancy training materials which teach how to train applicators to apply the foaming properly inside the walls. However, none of them gives enough foundation to make sure that you can see really how the foam is applied. There is 5-second rule when applicator is supposed to wait 5 seconds to make sure the void is filled, there is waiting until foam comes back rule, etc. However, none of those methods really insures good quality of application.
In contrast, with infrared concurrent checking while borate or any other type of foaming application is done against drywood or subterranean termites you can really see what is being done! When fumigation is done, you really cannot see if the gas reaches all the corners of the house, just because a tent is put on the entire house. Here, however you can see by yourself where the liquid went. Customers can even control the process of mixing the liquid. They can request that applicator opens the natural termite treatment material, shows them the label and making sure it is mixed with water in enough concentration, and once it is applied and seen all inside the walls, then this is it! It really cannot get any better!
There are different types of walls for foaming – those with drywall or plaster which take the foaming differently. Also, there are insulation of different density in most important walls – exterior box. This is where doing top quality foaming is crucial.
This is also the method which ensures that people can really see what is done and see what they are paying for. Either they pay for flashing all or most of the wood in their house or for drilling and nobody knows doing what. this is similar to putting a tent on entire house and nobody knowing doing what especially when fumigators spent more time to attach their vinyl advertising to the tent to make scared neighbors to call them, than they spent time to seal the tarp properly!
The way we do the foaming is virtually making sure most wood members in the house get flashed properly with Bora-Care and/or Timbor-Professional while doing preventative treatments or with Termidor SC while doing extermination and preventative treatments. After it is done properly, the house is protected. Even if there might be drywood termites inside wood members which borate spray does not reach, however it does not allow infestation to continue. It also prevents from future damage and infestation. In addition, many termites after eating borates on the surface of wood also get eliminated. This termiticide stays virtually forever and is also against other types of wood destroying organisms, including but not limited to subterranean termites, fungus, powder-post beetles, carpenter bees and ants. The fumigation on the other hand is only against by far the least dangerous wood destroying organisms – drywood termites. Borate foaming also sanitizes the wood and kills the spores of some dangerous microbes, rat droppings and remnants of other insects.
While fumigation is a very good tool in many cases, especially when there are extensive damages, new houses with soft wood, those on coastal areas built after 1990, as you can see it is ridiculously heavily abused.
You can also read my interview on Southern California Homes online edition by clicking the link below.