Zinc phosphide (Zn3P2) is a readily available rodenticide that, on contact with stomach acid and water, produces phosphine (PH3), a highly toxic gas. Household pets that ingest Zn3P2 often will regurgitate, releasing PH3 into the air. Veterinary hospital staff members treating such animals can be poisoned from PH3 exposure. During 2006-2011, CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received reports of PH3 poisonings at four different veterinary hospitals: two in Michigan, one in Iowa, and one in Washington. Each of the four veterinary hospitals had treated a dog that ingested Zn3P2. Among hospital workers, eight poisoning victims were identified, all of whom experienced transient symptoms related to PH3 inhalation. All four dogs recovered fully. Exposure of veterinary staff members to PH3 can be minimized by following phosphine product precautions developed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Exposure of pets, pet owners, and veterinary staff members to PH3 can be minimized by proper storage, handling, and use of Zn3P2 and by using alternative methods for gopher and mole control, such as snap traps.
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