UF research: methyl bromide more effective, economical for killing anthrax

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.---As anthrax and other biological weapons continue to be worrisome threats, a University of Florida researcher has found a common pest control agent called methyl bromide is more effective and cheaper than current treatments in eradicating deadly bacterial spores from buildings.

"Tests indicate the fumigant used for more than 50 years to control insect pests in buildings, grain elevators and fresh fruit is a better option than current treatments such as chlorine dioxide for killing anthrax and other bacterial spores," said Rudolf Scheffrahn, a professor of entomology with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who has studied pest control fumigants for more than 15 years.

Methyl bromide fumigation would have cost less than one-fourth of the estimated $23 million spent to clean up the anthrax contamination in the 3,000-square-foot Daschle Suite in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C, according to Scheffrahn. The cleanup estimate is based on an Environmental Protection Agency study ordered by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Earlier this week, officials with the U.S. Postal Service said using chlorine dioxide to clean up anthrax-contaminated postal facilities in Washington, D.C., and Trenton, N.J., would cost $35 million.

At an office building in Boca Raton, site of the nation's first fatal anthrax infection in October 2001, methyl bromide would be the most effective treatment because the structure is so heavily contaminated with anthrax spores, Scheffrahn said. The building has been closed since October, but could be easily decontaminated with methyl bromide at a lower cost than current EPA cleanup methods, he said.

"Another advantage of using methyl bromide fumigant is that it will not damage equipment, furnishings or sensitive materials," he said. "Chlorine dioxide is corrosive and may damage electronics, fabrics and photographs, among other things."

Scheffrahn said

Contact: Rudolf Scheffrahn
University of Florida

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