Fumigation of Village proceeds despite protests

Despite protests by a small group of residents who were fearful that the gas used to eliminate terminates might have a later negative medical impact on particularly susceptible people, the fumigation of the Malibu Canyon Village went ahead as scheduled this weekend.

The fumigation, which involves first moving out the residents then tenting the building and finally filling it with Vikane gas to kill the terminates, had been previously delayed by some residents who had gone to court to object to the process.

Ultimately the court decided the fumigation should go forward and the residents, some reluctantly, all moved out temporarily.

“Everything went smoothly,” said Ryan Embree, president of the Homeowners Association for the 104-unit complex at 23901 Civic Center Way.

Glen Green, service manager of Western Exterminator, confirmed that the work had progressed as scheduled.

Yet, residents remain worried about the health effects of the chemical process.

Lillian Arnesti, 78, a 24-year resident, said she has asthma and worries about any residual from Vikane, a highly toxic chemical widely used in the tenting and extermination of dry wood termites. Another resident, Susan Nuttall, mirrored her concerns.

“I have a daughter with asthma and any irritant can cause her to have a serious reaction,” said Nuttall.

Also concerned for the health of her child is Kaliko Orian, a freelance executive assistant in the entertainment industry.

“My-five-year old son has a seizure disorder,” she said. “If the fumigation is not done properly, there can be side effects. One of those side effects is seizure.”

However, no residual gas remains from Vikane use, according to technical and government affairs specialists from Dow AgroSciences (formerly DowElanco).

Speaking to The Malibu Times from Minneapolis, Customer Technologist Damon Shodrock and Government Affairs Manager Tim Maniscalo indicated that the air in a building should be the same after the fumigation as before.

“Certified technicians use a clearance instrument to measure the air so that it is within the legal tolerance for a 24-hour period,” said Shodrock. “Readings should be in the 0 to 5 parts per million before residents would be permitted to re-enter the building.”

Shodrock explained that no residual gas remains in draperies, furnishings, foam cushions and the like.

“It is the nature of Vikane, which is a gas and lighter than air, to escape outward from any space,” he said. “Through a process of desorption it leaves all furnishings and takes any opportunity to get out into the atmosphere and into the environment, which it does not harm.”

While Maniscalo reported that he had not encountered problems from people with pre-existing health hazards, such as asthma or seizure disorders, he suggested that individuals may want to stay out longer if their doctors recommend it.

He added that some complaints have arisen from the warning action of chloropicrin, which is basically an irritant. Vikane is odorless, and if all the chloropicrin is not completely out, one might experience such symptoms as a scratchy throat.

Vikane, on the other hand, can be lethal and extensive precautions are taken before and after fumigation by the exterminators to avoid problems.

Among the residents challenging the fumigation decision, James Heartland wrote recently to The Malibu Times that the tenants and a small group of owners successfully fought and won a delay against the use of Vikane six months ago. He said the Homeowners Association promised a meeting with representatives from a variety of extermination companies.

“This promise has not been lived up to. Why?,” asked Heartland. “Why is this toxic nightmare being shoved down our throats?”

Arnesti and several other residents also sought less toxic alternatives, which they believe have not been researched.

“With the microwave process, my understanding is there is no moving out and the company guarantees the work for three years,” said Arnesti. “Since no method can guarantee all termites are eradicated, it makes sense to use a non-toxic method first.”

Another issue expressed by a few residents was the belief that Vikane is the same gas used by the Nazis in the death camps of World War II. Research by The Malibu Times indicates this is not true. The Nazis used hydrogen cyanide, known as Zyklon-B, whereas Vikane is sulfuryl fluoride.

Also, Shodrock and Maniscalo confirmed that Vikane, developed in the late 50s and early 60s, was not linked to Zyklon B.

Orian, a tenant, stated that she primarily objected to the way the fumigation issue was handled.

“The Board probably has legitimate reasons for going this route, but no one wanted to explain things to us or let us provide input,” Orian said. “We were simply told what do.”

According to Embree, the Homeowners Association has the responsibility to protect the integrity of the building, and as such they held an annual meeting for the homeowners, which included an expert to discuss the fumigation.

“This is not an instance of small underdog tenants against big, bad homeowners,” he said. “The Homeowners Association is an association of more than 100 owners, who thoroughly discussed the problem, and voted to fumigate and to pay for it.”

Embree emphasized that homeowners, not tenants, meet and decide on such issues.

He added that two mailings were sent to everyone regarding the date and time of fumigation. People who protested were then sent letters from the association’s attorney about the necessity to sign requested documents, surrender keys and vacate.

Ultimately, “99 percent signed requested documents and everyone complied in vacating,” Embree said.

He added that coordinating and completing the $40,000 project took 10 workdays from his business.

“Being on the Board is a volunteer position; we are responsible to the owners,” he said.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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