Chlorpyrifos

What is Chlorpyrifos?

Chlorpyrifos (chemical formula: C9H11Cl3NO3PS), appears as a white to colourless granular crystal. It is insoluble in water, but readily soluble in organic solvents. It has a very strong odour.

What is Chlorpyrifos used for?

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide used to control populations of insects including ants, termites, mosquitoes and worms. It works by inhibiting the nerves in the pests and was commonly used in applications around the home and in agricultural settings on cotton and corn crops for example. 

Whilst chlorpyrifos maintained its popularity as a pesticide in the 1980s and 90s, it was later discovered that the potential toxic effects to humans outweighed its benefits. Long term and repeated exposure to low doses lead to persistent symptoms and affects the development in both children and fetuses.

Regulation surrounding the substance varies from country to country, but as of 2022, The U.S. EPA has banned chlorpyrifos on all food products.        
Regulation surrounding the substance varies from country to country, but as of 2022, The U.S. EPA has banned chlorpyrifos on all food products.        

Chlorpyrifos Hazards

The routes of exposure for chlorpyrifos include; inhalation ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of chlorpyrifos vapours can cause toxic effects that may even be fatal. Symptoms include watery discharge from the nose, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, wheezing, tearing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhose, stomach pain, chest pain, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, loss of reflexes and even coma and heart failure. Inhalation may also worsen any pre existing damage to the circulatory and nervous systems as well as already impaired respiratory function. 

Accidental ingestion may be lethal. Swallowing the chemical once can lead to irreversible damage to the organs as well as causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, reduced appetite, stomach cramps/pain, diarrhoea, thirst, difficulty breathing, convulsion, headache, fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision and chest discomfort. 

Skin exposure with chlorpyrifos can cause serious, irreversible damage of organs after just one exposure. It may also cause inflammation of the skin as well as accentuate any pre-existing dermatitis conditions. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds may also lead to other systemic effects and should also be avoided.

Eye exposure can lead to severe eye damage. Symptoms include tearing, eyelid twitching, pupil contraction, loss of focus and blurred or dimmed vision. 

Chronic effects can result from prolonged exposure to chlorpyrifos. This can lead to the substance accumulating in the body and animal studies conclude it may affect the development of unborn babies.  

Chlorpyrifos Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and remove any clothing contaminated by spray. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Give the patient atropine if instructed. Transport to hospital without delay. 

If swallowed, the patient may be advised to take activated charcoal or atropine. Urgent medical treatment is required, but in the meantime, qualified first aid personnel should treat and observe the patient’s condition. 

In the event of skin exposure, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and quickly wash the body and hair with plenty of soap and water. Give the patient atropine if instructed. Transport to hospital without.

If eye exposure occurs, flush the eyes out immediately with water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Contact lenses should only be removed by a skilled professional. Transport to hospital without.

Chlorpyrifos Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. Adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants to prevent overexposure (install local exhaust if necessary) is a must. 

The PPE recommended when handling chlorpyrifos includes, safety glasses with unperforated side shields, chemical goggles, gas masks, elbow length PVC gloves, safety footwear, overalls, PVC aprons and PVC protective suits. Skin cleansing and barrier creams are also recommended to be kept on hand and employees should be educated in the use of atropine for first aid. 

Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic substance and it is therefore crucial to refer to the SDS prior to handling. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sales@chemwatch.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.