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Catching tsetse

How safe are the attractants to use?

NB. When handled properly, the attractants are all safe to use. However, all are potentially toxic and/or inflammable when not used with due precautions.

The following general precautions should be observed when handling the attractants.

  • Store attractants in a cool, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight.
  • Store away from unauthorised users, particularly children.
  • Store attractants in proper containers that are clearly labelled. Avoid using old food or drink containers, e.g. Coke bottles, that could encourage unauthorised users to drink or eat the contents.
  • Wear protective overalls, gloves and eye protection when handling the attractants, particularly when using large quantities. These will provide protection against any toxic or corrosive effects. It should also be noted that octenol and the phenols have rather unpleasant and particularly "clinging" odours and you may find your friends avoiding you if your everyday clothes get contaminated.
  • Never eat, drink or smoke while working with the attractants.

Below is a summary of the main hazards for each of the attractants. Click on the link to see a full Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

Carbon dioxide is an odourless, non-flammable gas. It is present in the atmosphere (0.03-0.04%) and in exhaled human breath (4%) and at such levels is non-toxic. At higher concentrations it can cause hyperventilation and asphyxiation.

Acetone is a volatile (bp 56°C), highly inflammable liquid. It must be stored in strong, well-sealed containers, and care taken when opening these in case of pressure build up. Being so volatile, high concentrations of the vapour can easily occur and these can be suffocating as well as being easily ignited. Acetone is a good solvent, dissolving paint and attacking some plastics, and potentially penetrating the skin. It is miscible with water and organic solvents, and hence can be easily diluted with water in case of accidents. (MSDS)

Butanone has very similar properties to acetone except that it is less volatile (bp 80°C) and hence easier to handle and marginally less hazardous. Unlike acetone, butanone is only partially miscible with water. (MSDS)

Octenol (1-octen-3-ol) is a liquid with strong smell of mushrooms. It can be nauseating at high concentrations, but is otherwise relatively non-hazardous. (MSDS)

4-Methylphenol (p-cresol) is a liquid on hot days and solid on cold days. It has a pungent, disinfectant-like smell, but the main hazard is that it is corrosive on skin and particularly damaging to sensitive tissues - e.g. it will cause severe burns to the digestive tract if consumed. Thus contact with skin should be avoided by handling with care and using gloves and protective clothing. It is significantly soluble in water, so that spills can be washed away with lots of water, particularly with soap or soda added. (MSDS)

3-Methylphenol (m-cresol) is a liquid with similar hazardous properties to those of 4-methylphenol. (MSDS)

3-Propylphenol is a liquid with similar hazardous properties to those of 4-methylphenol. (MSDS)

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