Eulogy for Safrotin

Safrotin Coffee Mug

Do you have an insecticide that has a warm place in your heart?


If you’ve been around for a while, it might be chlordane. Newer people tend to like Tempo or Demand, and people who come from the country of Argentine Ants often name Termidor.

For me, it has to be Safrotin. Yes, the good old EC formulation of propetamphos, later reformulated as Catalyst. Some people didn’t like Catalyst as much as Safrotin, and maybe they were right, but still, I’d have taken either formulation over any other product if you send me into a dark apartment filled with German cockroaches and fleas. Of course, I’d also want a respirator, since both propetamphos formulations were known for their, ah, odor.

When the EPA brought the sword of Solomon down on the insecticide class called the organophosphates (OP’s for short), we lost many of our best products at the time. Diazinon, Dursban, and the like, were cleaved from the structural pest control industry. But, the best out of all the OP’s, propetamphos, oddly survived with only a flesh wound. We lost the residential use of propetamphos, but kept a label for commercial kitchens.

Oh, what a shame was that!

Safrotin Coffee Mug, Back

The famous dead flea on the back of the Safrotin coffee mug. Makes me want more coffee.

For fleas, nothing has yet to compare to propetamphos. The only solace in flea control is that Frontline (on-pet applications of fipronil) have taken the market from the structural pest control industry. Well, without propetamphos, good riddance. And for German cockroaches, oh, this resilient pest, ever gaining the ability to metabolize pesticides into harmless byproducts, or other ways to outwit our treatments. Propetamphos was one of the few products that the German cockroach never was reported to be resistant to.

You don’t get a product like that every day.

I can also make the same comment about the smell. Few OP’s stank quite as much as a propetamphos formulation, so it was odd that a commercial kitchen was the only place where we were still allowed to treat. Really, with baits and modern insecticides, I can treat just minutes before they open or even (illegally) treat while they are serving, and no one would know any better. (Not that I’ve ever done that, or condone that, etc. etc.) Try that with Safrotin and I don’t know what would happen first: either the patrons would go running out, or the cook would come at you with a frying pan. (Good thing you bought those anti-slip work boots, so you can scram and not slip in the oil and grease on the floor.)

I just saw the news today, however. The end of an era. The last of the line dies out. Propetamphos is being cancelled. The date for the funeral is December 31, 2012. Here’s the obituary, as written by the EPA.

As great as propetamphos was, it had outlived its life. The odor alone made it a product of the 1980’s, not of today’s world. Flea control is still gone, and we now have less invasive, safer ways to treat for German cockroaches. Used properly, you can get results equal or better than you could with propetamphos.

Other products that you use today may be coming to the end of their lives. Don’t wait for the EPA to wield the sword of Solomon on them, as well. Try out new products and see if they might work better than what you are using. Maybe you can use less product, or perhaps they have a better environmental profile. And, let me tell you, as much as I mourn the loss of the OP’s, we now have products on the market – finally, after so many years – that compare or even beat out the OP’s.

Propetamphos, rest in peace.

3 thoughts on “Eulogy for Safrotin

  1. Pingback: Bumble Bees: A Time to Kill, and a Time to Build Nest Boxes | Zen and the Art of Pest Management

  2. Ed

    I still have a can of Safrotin aerosol, half full, and I use it around my home, sparingly of course. I’m not in the PC industry anymore but Safrotin was and is a great product.

  3. Ted Snyder Post author

    Hi Ed, cool stuff, you know I am a big fan of Safrotin. Any old products that fall into the OP class (Safrotin, Dursban, diazinon) should be used up rather than horded. If that can of Safrotin aerosol is as old as I think it is, it’s well on the way to breaking down. You’ll still see it work, but part of that is just due to all the oil the product is diluted in. OP’s don’t hold up as well as the older chlorinated hydrocarbons.

    Happy treating!

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