Review of the toxicology of carbonyl sulfide, a new grain fumigant

Andrew R. Bartholomaeus, Victoria S. Haritos

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Carbonyl sulfide (COS) is a new grain fumigant which has been developed to replace methyl bromide, being phased out due to its ozone depletion properties, and to supplement phosphine gas which is experiencing increased insect resistance. Treatment of commodities with COS, a highly effective fumigant, results in residues that are near or indistinguishable to natural background levels of this compound. COS is a naturally occurring gas, being the predominant sulfur moiety in the atmosphere, occurs naturally in food and is a normal by-product of mammalian aerobic metabolism. COS has low acute inhalational toxicity but with a steep dose response curve; COS is neither genotoxic nor a developmental toxicant but does reversibly impair male fertility. Prolonged, repeated exposure to COS is likely to present similar neurotoxicity hazards to that of the structurally and toxicologically related compound carbon disulfide. Although the occupational risks presented by COS as a fumigant of bulk grain are significant, these are, as they have been for a considerable time for phosphine and methyl bromide, manageable by good occupational safety practices. Consideration may need to be given to scrubbing of ventilated COS and its breakdown product hydrogen sulfide, at the completion of fumigation to minimise worker and bystander exposure. In terms of classical regulatory toxicology studies, the available database for COS is deficient in many aspects and registration in most jurisdictions will depend on sound scientific argument built upon the totality of the existing scientific data as there are strong arguments supporting the registration of this compound.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1701
Number of pages15
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon disulfide
  • Exposure
  • Fumigant
  • Genotoxicity
  • Neurotoxicity

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