Carbon Disulphide Used to Exterminate Ants in Buildings, Results in a Severe Hazard — History of Recent Disaster

HAVE you met the Termite Ants?

The chances are that you haven’t. This variety is a troublemaker of the first order and is quite common in the southwest. It is a white ant, blind, and delights to burrow its way through wooden foundations of buildings. To destroy these insects, carbon disulphide is used, and therein lies the danger.

Carbon disulphide, sometimes known as carbon bisulphide, is a foul smelling liquid, that evaporates quickly and is considered the most hazardous of the flammable liquids commercially used. The relative limits of flammability by volume of gasoline is 1.4 to 6 and of carbon disulphide, 1.0 to 50.

A commercial organization was called to exterminate termites in a home in New Orleans, La. Their method is to drill holes tlie size of a one quart bottle stopper in the concrete floor, starting in a corner and drilling approximately every six feet along the walls. Holes are made with a star drill and hammer. Where there is a dirt floor, holes are reamed with an iron rod. Into each hole is poured a gallon of carbon disulphide from a five-gallon container. The holes are then plugged or tamped. About forty-five gallons of this liquid were used, and the reserve supply was kept in a tank on the outside.

Before the work was started, the water heater was cut off, the gas burner extinguished in the kitchen, and every precaution taken to prevent an explosion. According to the operator, the fuses were removed from the electric refrigerator, the motor of which was in the cellar. He informed the lady of the house of the precautions taken, but he did not mention anything concerning the ice machine. While the exterminating preparations were being made in the cellar, the woman and her child attempted to remove a pan of ice cubes from the refrigerator. The ice box door was kept open for about ten or fifteen minutes, and then an explosion occurred that wrecked the home. Two side walls, a portion of the rear wall, and a portion of the brick wall that supported the porch were blown out.

Later investigation disclosed that the fuses were not removed from the electrically operated refrigerator as a precautionary measure. When the door of the refrigerator was kept open for ten minutes or more, the temperature inside dropped, and tile motor in the cellar started automatically to cool the air in the ice box to a fixed point. The cellar was filled with fumes of the insecticide, and in this particular instance, the machine was located where the heaviest fumes would have existed.

Conclusions drawn by trained fire inspection men are that liquids of this kind are entirely too hazardous for use in dwellings and especially those in which people are living. It was a miracle that there was absence of hiss of life. The state fire marshall lias prohibited the use of carbon disulphide and has published this order in the newspapers.

1 he fire that followed the explosion was due, it is believed to gas that escaped near the water heater.

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