This is a fact sheet about a chemical that may be found in some public or
private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems if found
in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What is Carbofuran and how is it used?
Carbofuran is a white crystalline solid with a slightly phenolic odor.
This broad spectrum insecticide is sprayed directly onto soil and plants
just after emergence to control beetles, nematodes and rootworm. The
greatest use of carbofuran is on alfalfa and rice, with turf and grapes
making up most of the remainder. Earlier uses were primarily on corn
Carbofuran is allowed for use on only a few U.S. crops, and will soon be banned from use on corn and sorghum in California.
The list of trade names given below may help you find out whether you
are using this chemical at home or work.
Trade Names and Synonyms:
Furadan 4F or 3G
Why is Carbofuran being regulated?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires
EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water which do or
may cause health problems. These non-enforceable levels, based solely on
possible health risks and exposure, are called Maximum Contaminant Level
The MCLG for carbofuran has been set at 40 parts per billion (ppb)
because EPA believes this level of protection would not cause any of the
potential health problems described below.
Based on this MCLG, EPA has set an enforceable standard called a
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as
possible, considering the ability of public water systems to detect and
remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.
The MCL has also been set at 40 ppb because EPA believes, given
present technology and resources, this is the lowest level to which
water systems can reasonably be required to remove this contaminant
should it occur in drinking water.
These drinking water standards and the regulations for ensuring
these standards are met, are called National Primary Drinking Water
Regulations. All public water supplies must abide by these regulations.
What are the health effects?
Short-term: EPA has found carbofuran to potentially cause the following
health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for
relatively short periods of time: headache, sweating, nausea, diarrhea,
chest pains, blurred vision, anxiety and general muscular weakness.
These effects are reversible.
Long-term: Carbofuran has the potential to cause the following
health effects from long-term exposures at levels above the MCL: damage
to the nervous and reproductive systems.
How much Carbofuran is produced and released to the environment?
Carbofuran enters surface water as a result of runoff from treated fields
and enters ground water by leaching of treated crops.
EPA's 1990 National Pesticide Survey did not detect carbofuran
levels above the MCL in rural domestic wells or Community Water System
wells. EPA's Pesticides in Ground Water Database found very low levels
of carbofuran in ground water between 1971 and 1991.
What happens to Carbofuran when it is released to the environment?
If released to soil or water, carbofuran will be broken down by reactive
chemicals and microbes, particularly in alkaline conditions. Carbofuran
may leach significantly in many soils, as has been seen in the detection
of carbofuran in sandy aquifers in NY and WI. Leaching may not occur,
however, in very high organic content soils. It is not expected to
accumulate in aquatic organisms.
How will Carbofuran be detected in and removed from my drinking water?
The regulation for carbofuran became effective in 1992. Between 1993 and
1995, EPA required your water supplier to collect water samples every 3
months for one year and analyze them to find out if carbofuran is
present above 0.9 ppb. If it is present above this level, the system
must continue to monitor this contaminant.
If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the MCL,
your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of carbofuran
so that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment
methods have been approved by EPA for removing carbofuran: Granular
How will I know if Carbofuran is in my drinking water?
If the levels of carbofuran exceed the MCL, 40 ppb, the system must notify
the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional
actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be
required to prevent serious risks to public health.
This is a factsheet about a chemical that may be found in some
public or private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems
if found in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Drinking Water Standards:
Note: This fact sheet is part of a larger publication
adapted from U.S. EPA publication: EPA National Primary Drinking Water
|Mclg: 40 ppb (parts per billion)
Mcl: 40 ppb