Safety Measures for Soil Fumigant Products

Soil fumigants are a type of pesticide used to control soil pests or pathogens such as insects, nematodes, bacteria, fungi and weeds, which can disrupt plant growth and production. Once applied, a soil fumigant forms a gas and diffuses to fill cracks and pores in the soil. Soil fumigants are applied and incorporated into the soil; treated soil is sealed to prevent gases from escaping; and the soil is then aerated prior to planting.

Health Canada requires strict safety measures for soil fumigant products containing chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium or metam potassium. These measures are to protect people who live, work or otherwise spend time near fields that are fumigated. Major requirements for soil fumigants include a Fumigation Management Plan, Buffer Zones and Emergency Measures.

Fumigation Management Plan

Applicators must develop a written fumigation management plan prior to the start of any application. The plan outlines in detail the key steps to help ensure a safe and effective fumigation, including: consideration of site conditions (soil, air, weather, etc.); establishing the appropriate buffer zones; and emergency response planning. A signed copy of the fumigation management plan must be maintained for a minimum of two years as a detailed record of the application.

Buffer Zones

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A soil fumigant Buffer Zone is an untreated area surrounding a fumigated field where entry by anyone other than authorized personnel is prohibited. The Buffer Zone allows for the fumigant to dissipate before it can reach occupied areas. Residences, businesses, or other public areas which are occupied are not part of the Buffer Zone.

The minimum Buffer Zone distance is at least 8 metres from the fumigated field, but may be more depending on the application conditions. Entry into a Buffer Zone is not permitted for 48 hours after the application is complete.

Example of a buffer zone sign that shows a 'do not walk' symbol - a picture of a person walking set inside a circle and crossed out by a diagonal line. Large print reads 'do not enter.' Smaller print indicates 'except for vehicular or bicycle traffic,' and adds specific details about the buffer zone currently in place.

Soil fumigant applicators are required to post signage at the outer edges of the Buffer Zone before fumigation takes place to warn people to stay out.


Remaining out of the Buffer Zone is important for your safety. Although it is okay to travel through a Buffer Zone, for example in a vehicle or on a bicycle, you must not otherwise enter a Buffer Zone even if you see people working in it. Only authorized personnel may be in the Buffer Zone.

Emergency Measures

Applicators are required to have in place an emergency plan which identifies evacuation routes, contact information and procedures to follow in the event of an emergency or incident. In addition, in applications where residential or business areas are in close proximity to the Buffer Zone, applicators must either monitor air concentrations around the soil fumigation site, or provide notification and safety information to neighbours.

Questions or Concerns

If I have a question about a specific fumigation in my area, who should I contact?

For information about a specific fumigation, contact the pesticide applicator or property owner/operator.

How can I tell if I have been exposed to a soil fumigant?

Early signs and symptoms of exposure to soil fumigants include watering, burning or irritation of the eyes, nose or mucous membranes. Some people may also experience a headache, nausea or dizziness. Since heat stress and other factors can produce similar signs and symptoms, your physician is the best person to assist you in determining the cause of your symptoms.

What should I do if I think I have been exposed?

  • Call a poison control centre right away and get medical help. In case of emergency, call 911.
  • Bring this notification with you as it contains information that the emergency room doctor or your physician will need about the type of soil fumigant used.
  • If you suspect accidental pesticide poisoning of livestock or pets, consult a veterinarian.

Reporting a pesticide incident

If it is suspected that symptoms were caused by exposure to a soil fumigant, report the incident to Health Canada. Incident reports allow Health Canada to monitor the use of registered pesticides for safety, and determine how similar incidents can be prevented. Consult Report a Pesticide Incident on the Health Canada website.

For more information

Pesticides are strictly regulated in Canada. Health Canada only registers products that will not harm human health or the environment. Pesticide applicators must be certified and are responsible for following the instructions provided on the pesticide label for the safety of workers and bystanders.

For more information about pest management and pesticides, contact Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency by email at, or call toll free at 1-800-267-6315.

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