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Deltamethrin — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Tuesday, December 05, 2017 by

Deltamethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that is registered for use in commercial, agricultural, and residential areas. It plays a role in controlling malaria and targets other insects like cockroaches, spiders, ants, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, bird mites, house flies, and beetles. Deltamethrin products are one of the most popular and widely used pesticides in the world and are very popular with government pest control operations in the country. It is highly toxic to the environment, especially to aquatic life forms like fish and crustaceans. Deltamethrin is also known to be toxic to humans. As a neurotoxin, it attacks the nervous system and causes a variety of negative side effects and fatality. In 2011, a Japanese woman ingested large doses of pesticides that contained deltamethrin, which resulted in motor neuron death.

This chemical compound acts by blocking the closure of the ion gates of sodium channels during repolarization. It then disrupts the transmission of nerve-related impulses causing depolarization of the nerve cell membranes. It is very effective on insects, especially those considered as pests. However, it also affects beneficial insects including honey bees.

Other names for deltamethrin include [(S)-cyano-(3-phenoxyphenyl)methyl] (1R,3R)-3-(2,2-dibromoethenyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane-1-carboxylate; CAS-52918-63-5; EC-258-256-6; alpha-cyano-3-phenoxybenzyl (1R,3R)-cis-3-(2,2-dibromovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropanecarboxylate; Butox; decamethrin; Difexon; K-othrin; and many more.

Over 300 registered products contain deltamethrin, including trade names such as Aerochem general purpose granules; Ant killer granules; Bengal home insect killer; Bonide crawling insect killer; Enforcer bugmax home pest control; K-g crack & crevice spray; Rainbow dm fire ant killer; Storcide ii grain, bin and warehouse insecticide; Ultratec dust insecticide; Unicorn deltamethrin hpc 3 rtu; and Zep flush ‘n kill dm.

List of known side effects

Deltamethrin is highly toxic to all life forms, especially humans and aqueous animals. No matter the concentration, deltamethrin causes insects and other arthropods to suffer from hyperactivity, paralyzation, and death.

Poisoning in humans can result in ataxia (uncoordinated movement), hyperreactivity (exaggerated reaction to stimuli), tremors, parethesia (tingling or prickling sensations of the skin), exhaustion or lethargy, hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, hyperthermia, hypothermia, dyspnea (breathing difficulties), disorientation, cramps, spasms, and involuntary contractions of muscles or hollow organs.

Prolonged or repetitive dermal exposure to deltamethrin may cause local dermatitis with pruritus (itching) and erythema (reddening). Mucus membranes are also sensitive to deltamethrin, and poisoning may lead to allergic sensitization and asthmatic symptoms. Exposure to high doses can cause respiratory paralysis, convulsions, coma and death.

Pets that are treated for fleas may also obtain poisoning, especially domestic cats.

Body systems affected by deltamethrin

Deltamethrin, when exposed via dermal, ingestion, and inhalation routes, travel to the nervous system and is also absorbed by the muscular system. Because it affects the nervous system, other related body systems are also affected, most especially the respiratory system. However, it is likely non-carcinogenic to humans, is not teratogenic, nor is it mutagenic.

Items that may contain deltamethrin

Places that may be exposed to deltamethrin products include commercial, industrial and public buildings; public health situations; and warehouses that may contain stored produce and chemical pesticides. Food items that may have traces of deltamethrin include almonds and carrots.

There are over 300 products containing deltamethrin, some of which were mentioned in the beginning of the article.

How to avoid deltamethrin

Most pesticides and insecticides may contain deltamethrin, including flea products for domesticated animals. Avoid the places as mentioned above and the products listed as well.

In case of exposure, follow the first aid procedures when attending to chemical poisoning victims. For inhalation cases, move the victim to fresh air and have them stay in a resting position. On skin or eye contact, wash the affected skin area with soap and water, or flush eyes with clean, running water for at least 10 minutes. On ingestion, do not induce vomiting unless otherwise specified.

For all cases mentioned, contact emergency medical services or transport the victim to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible.

Where to learn more


Deltamethrin poisoning causes a variety of negative side effects in humans.

Deltamethring is not carcinogenic, teratogenic, nor mutagenic but may cause paralysis, convulsions, and death.

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