March 12, 2009

Fumigant remains in the air about 36 years

U.S. scientists have discovered a fumigant pumped into tented houses to kill pests remains in the atmosphere six to 10 times longer than previously thought.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers at the University of California-San Diego said the greenhouse gas most often used to rid buildings of termites, rodents and other pests -- sulfuryl fluoride -- remains in the atmosphere about 36 years.

A Scripps team led by Jens Muhle found the concentration of the gas rose at a rate of 4 percent to 6 percent per year from 1978 to 2007, to a global atmospheric abundance by the end of 2007 of about 1.5 parts per trillion.

It's extremely important to have independent verification of emissions, said Muhle. You can't have regulation without verification and you can't have verification without measurements.

The team reports its findings from the first-ever measurements of sulfuryl fluoride in the Journal of Geophysical Research.