FUMIGATION, an attempt at disinfection by gaseous agents. The term is also used to describe the application of the fumes of medic inal substances to the respiratory tract. Fumi gation is probably, in its primary sense, a very unsatisfactory mode of bringing about, disinfec tion. The agents that are used most effectively are chlorine gas, sulphur dioxide and formalde hyde. It has been distinctly demonstrated that chlorine gas as a disinfecting agent is untrust worthy, and that its application is attended with many disadvantages. Sulphur dioxide, in the absence of moisture, gives practically no re sults, and even when aqueous vapor is generated in a room previous to the use of the gas its bactericidal action is very slight. Moreover, sulphur dioxide in the presence of moisture in the air tarnishes brass and silver, gilt frames, etc., and corrodes fabrics and other stuffs. It is not a satisfactory disinfectant. Formalde hyde gas has been used since 1800 for fumiga tion. The vapor is extremely pungent, and it has a strong affinity for all organic substances. its practical value as a disinfectant has been demonstrated to be above that of any other gaseous substance. It cannot, however, be said to give absolute results, and although its power of penetration is greater than in that of any of the others mentioned it is still only a surface disinfectant. The interior of a heap of cloth
ing, for instance, if exposed to the gas, is not affected at all by it. Formaldehyde gas as a fumigant is not sufficiently strong to kill many household pests. This casts suspicion on its value as a room disinfectant. Moreover, it is very costly. In general it may be gathered that gaseous disinfection by fumigants is somewhat of a farce; and although formaldehyde gas ap proaches more closely the requirements of the ideal, it is far from being perfect. The best disinfectant for rooms is unquestionably sun light. Short of this, thorough cleansing, rub bing down the walls, etc., should be carried out. As noted in the article on disinfection, it is the effort of hygienists to particularize on the type of disease agents which they desire to eradicate. The general modes of disinfection heretofore much in vogue were largely founded on a lack of knowledge of what the infecting agents have been. See BACTERICIDE; DISINFECTANTS.