Definition of Toxaphene

Toxaphene: A chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide banned for all uses in the US due to concerns of toxicity. Breathing, eating, or drinking high levels of toxaphene can damage the lungs, nervous system, and kidneys, and can even cause death. The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that toxaphene may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen. Also known as camphechlor, chlorocamphene, polychlorocamphene, and chlorinated camphene.

Toxaphene is a mixture of approximately 200 organic compounds. It is usually found in its original form as a yellow to amber waxy solid that smells like turpentine. It does not burn and evaporates when in solid form or when mixed with liquids.

Toxaphene was one of the most heavily used insecticides in the US until 1982, when it was canceled for most uses; all uses were banned in 1990. It was used primarily in the southern US to control insect pests on cotton and other crops. It was also used to control insect pests on livestock and to kill unwanted fish in lakes. Toxaphene breaks down very slowly in the environment. It accumulates in fish and mammals.

The Environmental protection Agency (EPA) has set a drinking water standard of 0.003 milligrams of toxaphene per liter of drinking water (0.003 mg/L). The EPA also requires spills or accidental releases into the environment of 1 pound or more of toxaphene be reported.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit of 0.5 milligrams toxaphene per cubic meter of air (0.5 mg/m) for an 8-hour workday, 40 hour workweek.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that toxaphene levels should be as low as possible in the workplace due to its potential carcinogenicity.


Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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