Phosphine

Due to the risks of phosphine toxicity during transport, the Ctgb wants to amend the regulations on the use of aluminium and magnesium phosphide and to ban fumigation during transport.

Phosphine (hydrogen phosphide) is a colourless, odourless and flammable gas. It is mainly used to control insects in shipments of bulk grain. Phosphine is used to fumigate silos, containers and storage areas as well as ships, trains and trucks. The gas is formed by allowing aluminium or magnesium phosphide (a solid) to come into contact with air and moisture, after which the phosphine gas can do its job.

Phosphine gas is highly toxic, and in recent years there have been accidents (and near accidents) involving inland waterway shippers who came into contact with phosphine residues from fumigated cargoes. As a result of these incidents, extensive consultations have been held with phosphide product authorisation holders and the competent authorities in other EU Member States to determine whether stricter regulations are needed to prevent health risks to shippers, drivers, bystanders, workers and others involved in the transport and transshipment of fumigated cargoes. Such measures only make sense if they are implemented Europe-wide.

Maritime shipping will be exempted from these measures because rules for this sector only make sense if they are adopted globally. Furthermore, a well-functioning system now exists in seaports to identify and de-gasify fumigated cargoes before offloading and transport.

The proposed measures concern plant protection products as well as biocidal products for which the assessment is now harmonised at the European level. In the Netherlands, four plant protection products and one biocidal product are authorised that are based on aluminium and magnesium phosphide (phosphine-releasers). The regulations for their safe use vary from one product to another. To prevent new incidents with phosphine gas, the Ctgb wants to tighten the regulations as follows:

  1. fumigation of cargoes with phosphide agents during transport by road, rail or inland waterway is not permitted. Such fumigation must be done at a single fixed location.
  2. loose tablets, pills or other application means for phosphide agents that cannot be completely removed after fumigation are not permitted.
  3. after each fumigation and before any transfer or handling on the fumigated stocks or goods, all residues of phosphide agents must be removed by a qualified professional. This is clearly and indelibly shown on the outside of the fumigated area, including the number of packages of phosphide agents used.
  4. phosphide products can be used only in gas-tight closed spaces (containers, silos, etc.). This means that no more than 0.03 ppm of the product can be detected during fumigation within a hazard zone of 10 meters outside that gas-tight space.

After publication of the proposed decision in the Staatscourant (expected in mid-October 2022), authorisation holders and other interested parties will be given the opportunity to comment by means of public viewpoint procedure until no later than the end of November 2022, on the basis of which the Board will make a final decision.