Influence of Environmental, Structural, and Behavioral Factors on the Presence of Phosphine in Worker Areas During Fumigations in Grain Elevators

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Reed, Carl


Data-logging gas monitors with electrochemical cells sensitive to phosphine (PH3) were used to characterize concentrations of this common grain fumigant in and around grain elevators during fumigations. Twenty-four grain fumigations were observed, and each was monitored over a 5- to 8-day period. Phosphine gas, generated from aluminum phosphide fumigant applied to the grain, generally moved upward toward the grain surface and exited the bin at bin-top openings to the outside air or to enclosed worker areas. The upward air currents appeared to be the result of chimney effects, e.g., pressure differences resulting from buoyant air inside the warm grain and cooler, denser, ambient air. Significant wind effects on the PH3 concentration were also observed in the air between the grain surface and the bin roof. In enclosed areas located at the bin-top level, monitors located near the fill port or the fumigant dispenser recorded PH3 concentrations in excess of the exposure limit of 0.3 parts per million (ppm) about 35% of the time during grain fumigations. Phosphine concentrations between 0.31 and 1.0 ppm were observed 17.3% of the time, and concentrations in the ranges of 1.01-3.0, 3.01-10.0, and >10 ppm constituted 11.8%, 5.5%, and 0.3% of all readings, respectively, in bin-top worker areas. The likelihood of recording PH3 concentrations >0.3 ppm depended on ventilation practices. Fans in tunnels and open windows at aboveground locations appeared to greatly reduce the likelihood of high PH3 concentrations in enclosed areas.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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