Chlordane was once one of the most widely used chemicals to eradicate termites in the home.
According to the US-based Pesticide Action Network 1, just because chlordane is now banned does not mean we've seen the last of it. The potential for chlordane to get into the environment is magnified when homes and other structures, once sprayed with the chemical, get torn down to make room for new developments, exposing the previously shielded chemical to the elements - and possibly contaminating groundwater.
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are extremely fat-soluble and 'bioaccumulative' and, over time, tend to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. Chlordane is a cumulative poison, and long-term exposure may result in severe liver damage. It absorbs through the skin, so farm workers are particularly vulnerable to chlordane in the soil 2.
Chlorpyrifos* is one of the most commonly used domestic pesticides in Australia. It has replaced chlordane as the major termiticide for new construction and soil treatment in existing structures, but is also used inside buildings3 as an insecticide. Chlorpyrifos is a potent nerve poison six grams is sufficient to kill an adult.
Common names include: Dursban, Dursban 24E Insecticide, Dursban 6 Insecticidal Concentrate, Dursban 44 Insecticide, Dursban MC Insectidical Concentrate, Dursban M Insecticide, Dursban F, Lorsban, Brodan, Eradex, Pyrinex, Dowco 179, OMS-0971, and Dursban-xylene Insecticidal Mixture, among others.
A 1997 U.S. study of chlorpyrifos residues in a home offered some surprising results. The home was professionally treated with chlorpyrifos following the ventilation recommendations printed on the government-approved label. The residues were then measured on the surface of a dresser and on the surfaces of children's plastic toys and cloth toys for two weeks. To the researchers' surprise, the measurable residues of chlorpyrifos continued to increase for a week after the initial treatment. They discovered that the pesticide was entereing the air, then slowly settling out onto plastic and cloth surfaces, especially children's toys. Based on their measurement of toys, they estimated a typical child's exposure to chlorpyifos from this one application: it was 6 to 21 times as high as the recommended 'safe' dose. Chlorpyrifos was measurable in this particular home for 2 weeks after the initial application.
Other studies have shown that all sorts of pesticides can be retained on carpeting and on pets. Also, pets and people's shoes tend to pick up and carry such pesticides from a treated area into the home.
* Much of this info comes from an article in Rachels Environment Weekly <http://www.monitor.net/rachel/r588.html>.
Know Your Inerts . . .
So-called 'inerts', or the inert ingredients in pesticides usually form the bulk of the product's makeup and are often more dangerous than the active ingredients 2. A federal court in the U.S. has ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority must disclose all inert ingredients in pesticides marketed in that country. For years, manufacturers have hidden the identity of their inerts behind a veil of trade secrecy.
Toxic Chemical Combinations
Studies have shown that some combinations of hormone-disrupting chemicals are more powerful when combined (either intentionally or accidentally) than if applied in isolation. Two or three common pesticides that are combined are up to 1,600 times more toxic than when used alone. The Gulf War Syndrome is thought to have been caused in this way. (The UK Ministry of Defence has admitted that Gulf War syndrome which has manifested as a variety of illnesses related to damage of the nervous system, is caused by organophosphate chemicals.)
- Nexus, Aug/Sept '96
1. See under Chemicals, Toxics Groups
2. See Earth Island Journal reports, Winter 96-97 and Fall '96.
3. Indoor applications have included flea control (by broadcast and total release foggers), paint additives, and pet care (shampoos, dips and sprays).