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Public Health Statement for Toxaphene
This Public Health Statement is the summary chapter from the Toxicological Profile for toxaphene. It is one in a series of Public Health Statements about hazardous substances and their health effects. A shorter version, the ToxFAQsTM, is also available. This information is important because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present. For more information, call the ATSDR Information Center at 1-800-232-4636.
We define a public health statement and show how it can help you learn about toxaphene.
A public health statement summarizes information about a hazardous substance. The information is taken from a toxicological profile developed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences (DTHHS). A toxicological profile is a thorough review of a hazardous substance.
This toxicological profile examines toxaphene. This public health statement summarizes the DTHHS's findings on toxaphene, describes the effects of exposure to it, and describes what you can do to limit that exposure.
|Toxaphene at hazardous waste sites||
he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) identifies the most serious hazardous waste sites in the nation. The U.S. EPA then includes these sites on the National Priorities List (NPL) and targets them for federal clean-up activities. U.S. EPA has found toxaphene in at least 68 of the 1,699 current or former NPL sites.
The total number of NPL sites evaluated for toxaphene is not known. But the possibility remains that as more sites are evaluated, the number of sites at which toxaphene is found may increase. This information is important; these future sites may be sources of exposure, and exposure to toxaphene may be harmful.
|Why a toxaphene release can be harmful||
When a contaminant is released from a large area such as an industrial plant or from a container such as a drum or bottle, it enters the environment. But such a release doesn't always lead to exposure. You can only be exposed to a contaminant when you come in contact with it. That contact-and therefore that exposure-can occur when you breathe, eat, or drink the contaminant, or when it touches your skin.
Even if you're exposed to toxaphene, you might not be harmed. Whether you are harmed will depend on such factors as the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you happen to contact it. Harm might also depend on whether you've been exposed to any other chemicals, as well as your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health.
This section describes toxaphene in detail and how you can be exposed to it.
|What is toxaphene?||
Toxaphene is made by reacting chlorine gas with a substance called camphene. The resulting product (toxaphene) is a mixture of hundreds of different chlorinated camphenes and other, closely related chlorinated terpenes.
Toxaphene is usually found as a solid or gas. In its original form, toxaphene is a yellow to amber waxy solid that has a piney odor.
|How is toxaphene used?||
Toxaphene was one of the most heavily used pesticides in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was used primarily to control insect pests on cotton and other crops in the southern United States. Other uses included controlling insect pests on livestock and killing unwanted fish in lakes.
Toxaphene was banned for all registered uses in the United States by 1990.
|Where is toxaphene found?||
Toxaphene can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used.
This section looks at how toxaphene enters your body and potential toxaphene health effects found in human and animal studies.
|How toxaphene enters your body||
Toxaphene can enter your body from the air, water, or soil.
|What happens to toxaphene in your body||
Toxaphene is quickly broken down into other substances in your body.
|How toxaphene leaves your body||
Toxaphene and its breakdown products leave your body mostly in urine and feces. Small amounts may leave through breast milk and exhaled air.
|Introduction to toxaphene health effects||
The health effects of toxaphene depend on how much toxaphene you are exposed to and the length of that exposure. Environmental monitoring data suggest that any toxaphene levels that the public might encounter by direct contact or through air, water, food, or soil are generally much lower than levels that caused adverse effects in animals.
|Short-term exposure effects||
Convulsions were experienced by some people who accidentally or intentionally swallowed large amounts of toxaphene, including three women who ate collard greens contaminated with toxaphene. However, since toxaphene is no longer used as a pesticide, you would not likely eat enough toxaphene-contaminated food to affect your nervous system in this way. Toxaphene temporarily damaged the liver and kidneys of a man who attempted suicide by drinking a large amount of an insecticide that contained toxaphene. Swollen kidneys were seen in a small boy who died after drinking a large amount of toxaphene. Kidney and liver damage were seen in animals that were given toxaphene by mouth in amounts that you would not likely get by eating food or drinking water containing toxaphene.
|Long-term exposure effects||
Effects on the immune system have been observed in laboratory studies of animals that were given toxaphene by mouth in amounts that you would not likely get by eating food or drinking water containing toxaphene.
|Toxaphene and cancer||
Toxaphene caused liver cancer in mice and possibly thyroid cancer in rats that were given toxaphene by mouth in large amounts that you would not likely get by eating food or drinking water containing toxaphene.
|Some cancer findings by government and other agencies||
This section discusses potential health effects of toxaphene exposure in humans from when they're first conceived to 18 years of age, and how you might protect against such effects.
|Exposure effects for children generally||
Toxaphene would be expected to affect children in the same manner as adults. It is not known whether children are more susceptible than adults to the effects of toxaphene.
|What about birth defects?||
A few studies in animals have shown minor changes in fetal development. We do not know if toxaphene would cause developmental effects in humans.
If your doctor finds that you have been exposed to significant amounts of toxaphene, ask whether your children might also be exposed. Your doctor might need to ask your state health department to investigate.
|Food / contaminated groundwater or soil||
Do not eat food that has been contaminated with toxaphene, although it is unlikely that any food you eat would contain detectable amounts of toxaphene, with the exception of food, such as fish, taken from surface waters that have been contaminated with toxaphene.
Do not drink water that has been contaminated with toxaphene.
We identify medical tests that can detect whether toxaphene is in your body, and we recommend safe toxic-substance practices.
|Toxaphene can be measured in blood and urine||
Toxaphene and its breakdown products (metabolites) can be measured in blood and urine. However, the detection of toxaphene or its metabolites cannot predict the kind of health effects that might develop from that exposure. Because toxaphene and its metabolites leave the body fairly rapidly, the tests need to be conducted within days after exposure.
One way the federal government promotes public health is by regulating toxic substances or recommending ways to handle or to avoid toxic substances.
|The federal government regulates toxic substances||
Regulations are enforceable by law. The U.S. EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are some federal agencies that have adopted toxic substances regulations.
|The federal government recommends safe toxic substance practices||
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have made recommendations about toxic substances. Unlike enforceable regulations, these recommendations are advisory only.
|Toxic substance regulations||
Regulations and recommendations can be expressed as "not-to-exceed" levels; that is, levels of a toxic substance in air, water, soil, or food that do not exceed a critical value usually based on levels that affect animals; levels are then adjusted to help protect humans. Sometimes these not-to-exceed levels differ among federal organizations. Different organizations use different exposure times (an 8-hour workday or a 24-hour day), different animal studies, or emphasize some factors over others, depending on their mission.
|Check for regulation updates||
Recommendations and regulations are also updated periodically as more information becomes available.Â For the most current information, check with the federal agency or organization that issued the regulation or recommendation.
Some regulations and recommendations for toxaphene include:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2014 Toxicological Profile for Toxaphene. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
Where can I get more information?
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your community or state health or environmental quality department or:
For more information, contact:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop F-57
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO · 888-232-6348 (TTY)
Email: Contact CDC-INFO
ATSDR can also tell you the location of occupational and environmental health clinics. These clinics specialize in recognizing, evaluating, and treating illnesses resulting from exposure to hazardous substances.
Information line and technical assistance:
To order toxicological profiles, contact:
National Technical Information Service
5285 Port Royal Road
Springfield, VA 22161
Phone: 800-553-6847 or 703-605-6000
Some PDF files may be electronic conversions from paper copy or other electronic ASCII text files. This conversion may have resulted in character translation or format errors. Users are referred to the original paper copy of the toxicological profile for the official text, figures, and tables. Original paper copies can be obtained via the directions on the toxicological profile home page, which also contains other important information about the profiles.
The information contained here was correct at the time of publication. Please check with the appropriate agency for any changes to the regulations or guidelines cited.
- Page last reviewed: January 21, 2015
- Page last updated: January 21, 2015
- Content source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry