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Chlorpyrifos — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Thursday, November 23, 2017 by

Chlorpyrifos (CPS) is an organophosphate insecticide which causes cholinesterase inhibition. It is used as an acaricide (poisonous to mites and ticks). It was introduced by the Dow Chemical Company in 1965, and acts on pests primarily. It is sold as liquid, granules, dissolving granules, powders, water-soluble packets, and has a very strong noxious odor if the crystalline powder is usually mixed with oily liquids prior to use.

It is mostly used on corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops. It may also be used in golf courses, lawn turf, greenhouses, wood treatment. Chlorpyrifos is also registered to be used for mosquitoes, roaches, and ants. This acaricide or insecticide is acutely toxic when absorbed through the skin, or when it comes into contact with the eyes, when it is inhaled, or when it is ingested. It is also highly toxic to aquatic life and has long-lasting effects in water.

Other names for chlorpyrifos include 2921-88-2; Dursban; Trichlorpyrphos; Lorsban; Coroban; Pyrinex; Zidil; Suscon green; Grofo; Lock-On; phosphorothioic acid; Pestanal; and Diethyl O-(3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridyl) phosphorothioate. Read chemical labels in order to prevent exposure and intoxication of this toxic chemical.

List of known side effects

Side effects may happen when chlorpyrifos is absorbed through the skin, eyes, when inhaled, and when ingested. There are a lot of side effects when exposed to this toxic chemical: wheezing, salivation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, chest discomfort, sweating, miosis (excessive pupil constriction), blurred vision, papilledema (inflammation of optic nerve), dermal irritation, muscle twitching, cyanosis, and laryngeal spasms.

Severe side effects from extensive or prolonged exposure may include respiratory paralysis, convulsions, coma, loss of reflexes, loss of sphincter control, transient corneal injury, superficial burns, and death.

Body systems affected by chlorpyrifos

Chlorpyrifos targets the respiratory system, the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, and it inhibits cholinesterase.

Items that may contain chlorpyrifos

Food items that might have chlorpyrifos residue are grain, cotton, fruits, nuts, and vegetable crops. Some ornamental plants and lawns may also have chlorpyrifos. It can also be detected in sheep, turkey, horses, and dogs (when kennels or stables are treated with it). Structures that may contain the toxic chemical are farm buildings, storage bins, and other commercial establishments exposed to pests.

How to avoid chlorpyrifos

To avoid chlorpyrifos completely, avoid the use of pesticides on house gardens and lawns. Commercially produced vegetables and fruits (as mentioned above) may have chlorpyrifos residue and must also be avoided.

Farmers and other commercial farm staff may be exposed to the toxic chemical and must exercise caution and proper prevention. This can be done by wearing proper chemical-resistant protective gear including gloves, boots, coveralls, and full-head respirator masks. Skin and eye exposure must be irrigated immediately and extensively. Wash contaminated body parts with soap and water, and dispose of contaminated clothing. Protective gear must be washed with soap and water. When inhaled, transfer immediately to a well-ventilated, open area. In cases of ingestion, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Where to learn more


Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic. Chlorpyrifos must not be ingested, inhaled, or exposed to the skin and eyes. Prolonged exposure to chlorpyrifos may result in respiratory paralysis and eventually, death.

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