Health effects of diazinon

Introduction

Diazinon is the common name of an organophosphorus insecticide used to control pest insects in soil, on ornamental plants, and on fruit and vegetable field crops. It is also used to control household pests such as flies, fleas, and cockroaches. This chemical is synthetic and does not occur naturally in the environment. Diazinon is sold under common trade names including Alfatox, Basudin, AG 500, Dazzel, Gardentox, and Knoxout.

The pure chemical (100 percent diazinon) is a colorless and practically odorless oil. Preparations used in agriculture and by exterminators contain 85-90% diazinon and appear as a pale to dark-brown liquid. This form of diazinon is diluted with other chemicals before use. The diazinon available for home and garden use contains 1-5% diazinon in a liquid or as solid granules. These preparations have a slight chemical odor but cannot be identified by smell. Most of the diazinon used is in liquid form, but it is possible to be exposed to the chemical in a solid form. Diazinon does not burn easily and does not dissolve easily in water. It will dissolve in alcohol or other organic solvents such as petroleum products.

Pathways for diazinon in the environment

Diazinon may enter the environment during the manufacturing process, but most environmental contamination comes from agricultural and household application of the chemical to control insects. Diazinon is often sprayed on crops and plants, so small particles of the chemical may be carried away from the field or yard before falling to the ground. Studies have not shown harmful human health effects resulting from airborne contamination of areas surrounding fields where diazinon has been used. After diazinon has been applied, it may be present in the soil, surface waters (such as rivers and ponds), and on the surface of the plants. Diazinon on soil and plant surfaces may also be washed into surface waters by rain. Up to 25% of applied diazinon can return to the air from the surface where it was applied. In the environment, diazinon is rapidly broken down into a variety of other chemicals. Depending on the soil or water conditions, the time required for one-half of the diazinon to be broken down is between a few hours and 2 weeks. Diazinon can move through the soil and contaminate ground water (water below the surface such as well water). Diazinon is rapidly broken down by most animals that eat it. This means the chemical is not likely to build up to high or dangerous levels in animal or plant foods that you might eat.

Exposure to diazinon

Diazinon can be bought at any home or garden supply store in the United States and is safe if used according to the directions printed on the container. Small amounts of diazinon have been detected in foods sold to consumers, but studies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found that the levels in food are far below the level that might cause any harmful health effects. Diazinon has been found in surface and ground water samples collected at many locations. Only a few of these samples contained high levels of diazinon contamination. These were associated with runoff from contaminated fields or single sources responsible for contamination such as illegal dumping. In areas surrounding hazardous waste disposal or treatment facilities, you could be exposed by contact with contaminated soils or contaminated runoff water or ground water that resulted from spills or leaks of material on the site. People who work in the manufacture and professional application of diazinon have the most significant exposure to this insecticide. Other than people who are exposed at work, those most likely to be exposed are people who use the chemical on lawns or gardens, or to control insects in the home.

Pathways for diazinon in the body

If you breathe air containing diazinon, you may absorb it into your body through your lungs. If you eat food or drink water containing diazinon, the chemical may be absorbed from your stomach and intestines. Diazinon may also enter your body across the skin. People living near hazardous waste sites are most likely to be exposed to diazinon through contact with contaminated soil or runoff water.

Once in the body, diazinon is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body in both the urine and feces. Diazinon has not been shown to accumulate in any tissues and almost all of the chemical is eliminated from the body in 12 days.

Health effects of diazinon

You should know that one way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify such health effects as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals.

Additionally, there are vigorous national and international efforts to develop alternatives to animal testing. The efforts focus on both in vitro and in silico approaches and methods. For example, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) created the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) in 1998. The role of NICEATM is to serve the needs of high quality, credible science by facilitating development and validation—and regulatory and public acceptance—of innovative, revised test methods that reduce, refine, and replace the use of animals in testing while strengthening protection of human health, animal health and welfare, and the environment. In Europe, similar efforts at developing alternatives to animal based testing are taking place under the aegis of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM).

If you breathe air containing diazinon, you may absorb it into your body through your lungs. If you eat food or drink water containing diazinon, the chemical may be absorbed from your stomach and intestines. Diazinon may also enter your body across the skin. People living near hazardous waste sites are most likely to be exposed to diazinon through contact with contaminated soil or runoff water.

Once in the body, diazinon is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body in both the urine and feces. Diazinon has not been shown to accumulate in any tissues and almost all of the chemical is eliminated from the body in 12 days.

Medical tests for exposure to diazinon

If you breathe air containing diazinon, you may absorb it into your body through your lungs. If you eat food or drink water containing diazinon, the chemical may be absorbed from your stomach and intestines. Diazinon may also enter your body across the skin. People living near hazardous waste sites are most likely to be exposed to diazinon through contact with contaminated soil or runoff water.

Once in the body, diazinon is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body in both the urine and feces. Diazinon has not been shown to accumulate in any tissues and almost all of the chemical is eliminated from the body in 12 days.

Further Reading

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.

Glossary

Citation

(2008). Health effects of diazinon. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbedfb7896bb431f6953cc

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