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Environmental Hazards of Methyl Iodide

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Occupational Health Hazards

Exposure to methyl iodide may result in respiratory tract infections. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, nausea and vomiting. If a person is unable to ventilate properly, he or she should wear an oxygen mask.

Skin contact irritates the eyes and burns. Inhalation of vapor causes lung congestion and pulmonary edema. High concentrations cause rapid narcosis and death.

Ingestion of methyl iodide may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It may also damage kidneys and liver.

Occupational exposure to methyl iodide is possible as an oxidizing and reducing agent in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, pesticides and some chemical fire extinguishers. In some areas, methyl iodide is used as an insecticide for scale insects and beetles; it is also used in analytical chemistry laboratories to evaluate type of sulfur linkage in vulcanized rubber.

Methyl iodide is a potential environmental hazard due to the fact that it is a strong oxidizing and reducing agent, causing it to react with many amines, alkylphosphines, nitrides, and azo/diazo compounds. It is incompatible with some metals (e.g., iron), some nitrates and other organic compounds, some acidic substances, and some solvents.

Degradation & Release from Soil and Groundwater

Methyl iodide can be removed from soil and groundwater by physical means such as wet deposition and volatilization. However, the rate of degradation in soil depends on the amount of organic matter and on the water table. If the water table is shallow and if the degradation rate in soil is slow, methyl iodide may be leached into ground water.