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 Toxaphene and how is it used?
Toxaphene is an amber, waxy organic solid with a piney odor. Toxaphene was
used as an insecticide for cotton and vegetables, and on livestock and
poultry. These uses have been restricted, and toxaphene is now used only
for special needs, mainly in southern states.
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:
Agricide Maggot Killer
Royal Brand Bean Tox 82
Cotton Tox MP82
Security Tox-MP cotton spray
Security Motox 63 cotton spray
Agro-Chem Brand Torbidan 28
Dr Roger's TOXENE
Why is Toxaphene 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 toxaphene has been set at zero 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 been set at 3 parts per billion (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.
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 toxaphene to potentially cause the following
health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for
relatively short periods of time: central nervous system effects
including restlessness, hyperexcitability, tremors, spasms or
Long-term: Toxaphene has the potential to cause the following
effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: liver and
kidney degeneration; central nervous system effects; possible immune
system suppression; cancer.
How much Toxaphene is produced and released to the environment?
Production of toxaphene in 1977 was nearly 40 million pounds. By 1982,
when EPA canceled most of its uses, consumption was reported at 12
million pounds. Toxaphene is released into the environment primarily
from its application as an insecticide for the protection of cotton,
mostly in southern states.
What happens to Toxaphene when it is released to the environment?
Toxaphene is very persistent, remaining in soil for up to 14 years. It is
not expected to leach to groundwater. It will not break down by
microbial or other means. Though it strongly binds to soils and the
sediments of water bodies, it may gradually evaporate to the air where
it is slowly broken down by sunlight. Toxaphene has a high potential to
accumulate in aquatic life.
How will Toxaphene be detected in and removed from my drinking water?
The regulation for toxaphene 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 toxaphene is present
above 1 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 Toxaphene so
that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment
methods have been approved by EPA for removing Toxaphene: Granular
activated charcoal in combination with Packed Tower Aeration.
How will I know if Toxaphene is in my drinking water?
If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the MCL, your
water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of Toxaphene so that
it is consistently below that level. The following treatment methods
have been approved by EPA for removing Toxaphene: Granular activated
charcoal in combination with Packed Tower Aeration.
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
Mcl: 3 ppb (parts per billion)