The pesticide industry has been linked to many environmental issues and public health problems. You have probably heard about the dangers of certain pesticides and tried to avoid them by going organic. Part of the problem is heptachlor.

Heptachlor is a chemical used in some pesticides that has been linked to certain health concerns and environmental issues. Although this toxic chemical has deleterious effects, it is still in use today. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have restricted the use of Heptachlor, but is that good enough?

spraying pesticide over crops

What Is Heptachlor?

According to the CDC, heptachlor is a chemical substance classified as a pesticide that cannot be found in nature. When it is broken down by bacteria or animal consumption, the remaining substance is called heptachlor epoxide. To understand the risks and benefits of this pesticide, you may want to know more about it.

As defined by the chemistry database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Heptachlor is a crystal powder or waxy solid that does not dissolve in water with a color that can range from white to tan depending on purity. It has a camphor smell like mothballs.

It is a noncombustible, stable substance that does not break down in sunlight, heat or water. Because of these physical properties, heptachlor was considered a good choice of pesticide for crops from the mid-1950’s through the mid-1970’s.

Items that Contain Heptachlor

This chemical was first made for widespread insecticide use on crop soil as well as in-home pest control. It appeared to be especially useful for fire ant and termite control. After the long term dangers of heptachlor were discovered, the EPA limited use to fire ant control of power transformers.

The following pesticide products are known to contain heptachlor:

  • Heptagran®;
  • Basaklor®;
  • Drinox®;
  • Soleptax®;
  • Termide®;
  • Velsicol 104;

Along with these products, heptachlor and heptachlor epoxide can be found in trace amounts in the environment from previous widespread use. Crops may still contain a negligible amounts from soil contamination. Animals may have trace levels from consuming contaminated food and water.

Dangers of Heptachlor

The environmental contamination was not thought to be much of an issue until further laboratory tests revealed additional health concerns.

  • It’s possibly carcinogenic and teratogenic. The EPA has since stated that:

Heptachlor and its metabolite, heptachlor epoxide, had been demonstrated to cause cancer and birth defects in laboratory mice and rats.

  • Breakdown releases toxic gases. By-products are carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride gases according to the NCBI Chemistry Database.
  • Heptachlor sticks around for awhile. This chemical is difficult to remove from soil and water and can harm animals in the environment.
  • High amounts can cause liver damage. In laboratory testing, eating contaminated food over an extended period of time contributed to liver damage and an increased risk of liver tumors.
  • It may affect nervous system function. This is especially true for newborns and developing children, because they are more sensitive to neurological damage.

For those who are exposed, this chemical can be stored in fat cells, making it hard to completely remove from the body. Another way people can be accidentally exposed is from plants and animals that take this chemical in from contaminated soil.

Although these dangers have been documented in laboratory animals, there has not been conclusive evidence of harmful effects from exposure among humans. Despite this fact, there is cause for concern with potential environmental contamination.

Are there Benefits for Heptachlor?

With all of the evidence stacking up against it, there are some redeeming qualities to consider as well. The continued use only occurs with enclosed power conductor boxes that will rarely be opened up. For fire ant control of power transformers, this chemical is one of the best options.

There are now strict regulations to prevent accidental exposure to humans and the environment. The EPA continuously monitors reports for potential hazards and can revoke the product registration if further data shows health or environmental problems.

Final Thoughts

The EPA catches a lot of flack about over-regulation, but they also do a great deal of good. Their diligence in investigating chemicals has prevented harmful exposure for humans and the environment.

What do you think? Perhaps the EPA should leave the pesticide industry alone and let capitalism work these issues out. Maybe this chemical should be considered too much of an environmental concern and be banned from all use. Do you think heptachlor should be used at all or is the risk too great.

Image from pixabay.com.