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Whole-House Fumigation

A new twist on an old Idea
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It is indeed an old Idea to fill a house with toxic fumes to kill various pests, mostly bugs of various types. However, the traditional approaches, such as burning sulfur to create sulfur dioxide, or setting off a "bug bomb" that releases a more specific insecticidal vapor, are too slow. They give the bugs a chance to crawl away faster than the fumes can kill them.

What we need is one of those big tanker trucks, filled with an appropriate liquified toxic gas. Then you (1) remove some window screens and open those windows, (2) ensure all the interior doors are also open, and (3) seal the seal the exterior doors to the house (after humans and pets leave, of course).

Now you can run multiple hoses from the tanker truck to the open windows, and pump a great deal of liquid gas into the house very quickly, until the whole floor area is covered, maybe a centimeter deep. Then close the windows, without locking them.

No house is perfectly sealed, of course, so as the gas evaporates it will work its way through all the available nooks and crannies (and major openings like a fireplace), killing bugs very thoroughly as it escapes the house.

After a few hours the windows can be opened again, and the screens reinstalled, to quickly let the remainder of the evaporated gas out of the house (and of course to keep new bugs from entering through those open windows).

Now, what gas to use? We would like one that is decently toxic and doesn't have a liquification point so low that stuff on the floor will shatter when the floor of the house is flooded with the stuff.

The toxic gas that I'll pick for this Idea is sulfur dioxide. It boils at a mere 10 degrees below zero, Celsius; you could probably keep a bottle of the liquified gas in an ordinary freezer, if you wanted. It is not as toxic as some other gases, but hey, if the whole floor of the house was literally soaked in the stuff, and hours pass before all the windows are opened again, then bugs are going to DIE. Which is the point, right?

Vernon, Sep 07 2012

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       Humble bug 1, Technology 0. All bugs have to do is keep back a few of themselves for spares and chuckle occasionally at the efforts and costs comprised in trying to contain them.
Phrontistery, Sep 07 2012
  

       We suggest Sarin or Tabun - their origins are in research into organophosphate insecticides.
8th of 7, Sep 07 2012
  

       Go on holiday for six months. Starve 'em to death.
Lesser Spotted Kiwi, Sep 07 2012
  

       put a tarp over it and fill with hydrogen - no need to bring tanks, just plug in an electrolyser.
FlyingToaster, Sep 07 2012
  

       baked, rebaked, overbaked except for the twist of using a nontoxic gas, which has surely been considered. [-]
Voice, Sep 07 2012
  

       [Voice], sulfur dioxide is toxic enough. Especially if it is the only gas being breathed. It is significantly heavier than air, so it will fill the house from the floor up as it evaporates, displacing all the ordinary air in the house. It reacts with moisture (which all bugs have, inside them) to form sulfurous acid --not as damaging as sulfuric acid, but damaging enough to respiratory systems. I'm quite confident that after hours of such exposure, the bugs in that house will be dead.   

       Meanwhile, because sulfurous acid is a weak acid, ordinary items in the house should escape unscathed. Some materials-testing probably should be done, so that if some house contains a lot of some particularly susceptible material, it can be removed in advance of the fumigation crew's arrival.
Vernon, Sep 08 2012
  

       Make up a problem and solve it—that's how [Vernon] rolls.
ytk, Sep 08 2012
  
      
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