Dangerous Pesticide Found In 64% Of U.S. Homes 20+ Years After Being Banned

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Dangerous Pesticide Found In 64% Of U.S. Homes 20+ Years After Being BannedPhoto – Pixabay (PD)

Health officials in Connecticut released advisories asking residents to test their private drinking water wells for possible presence of Chlordane and Dieldrin. A study conducted in the CT town of Stamford found 195 out of the 628 wells tested had at least one of these toxic chemicals. More than half of the sample wells were found positive for one of the pesticides at concentration levels above those considered acceptable by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [1]

The Stamford Health Department first conducted its study in 2009 after pesticide contamination was found near a local town dump. They expected localized contamination, but were surprised to find the chemicals in locations away from the dump. Sharee Rusnak, Epidemiologist for the state’s Department of Public Health said, “We believe that this problem in Stamford could reach much further than Stamford itself and it could exist even beyond Fairfield County.” [1]

These chemicals have proven to be very pervasive in the environment. Chlordane was found on the grounds of the New Jersey West Brook Middle School at levels that exceeded state safety standards. [2] In 2009, EPA and the U.S Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found chlordane in a shocking 64% of the sample US households. Studies also found supposedly pristine National Parks contaminated with chlordane and dieldrin. [3] Should there be a class action lawsuit?

What Are Chlordane And Dieldrin?

A man-made chemical, Chlordane was used as a pesticide in the US from 1948 to 1988. The finished product is not a single chemical, but a mixture of many components, including trans-nonachlor, heptachlor, beta-chlordene, cis-chlordane, and trans-chlordane. From 1983 to 1988, the only approved use of chlordane was for controlling termites in homes. It was applied at the underground level, around the house’s foundation. [4]

Before 1978, the chemical chlordane also served as pesticides on agricultural crops, gardens, and lawns. The EPA canceled its use on food crops and other above-ground uses because of evidence of human exposure, concerns over cancer risk, danger to wildlife, and persistent presence in the environment long after its application. [4]

Dieldrin has a history similar to that of chlordane. It was used to control termites and agricultural pests. EPA prohibited most of the chemical’s uses in 1974 and banned it for all of its purposes in 1987 after it was found harmful to wildlife. Just like chlordane, dieldrin persists in the environment for decades. Worse, it moves up the food chain, reaching meats and dairy products. [5]

Persistence Of Chlordane And Dieldrin In The Environment

Chlordane is known for remaining in some soils for more than 20 years. Its persistence is greater in organic, clayey, or heavy soil than in sandy soil. Half of the chemical applied to the surface of the soil may evaporate in 2 to 3 days. It evaporates much slower after it has penetrated the soil. In water, chlordane can attach strongly to particles and sediment in the water column, although some can be lost to evaporation. Chlordane is broken down in the atmosphere after it has reacted to light and some chemicals. It is sufficiently long-lived though that it may travel long distances and get deposited in water or on land far from its source. Chlordane accumulates in mammals, birds, and fish. It is still commonly found in the fat of fish, mammals, birds, and humans. [4]

Just like chlordane, dieldrin continues to be present in the environment long after its application. This chemical breaks down in water or soil very slowly. It sticks to soil and can stay there for many years. The chemical is not found in water in high concentrations as it does not easily dissolve in water. Most of the dieldrin in the environment is found in soil and in sediments at the bottom of streams, ponds, and lakes. The chemical can also attach to dust particles and travel great distances as it gets transported by the wind. Plants can pick up dieldrin from the soil and store it in their roots and leaves. Animals or fish that eat plants contaminated by dieldrin store large amounts of the chemical in their fats. Those that eat other animals are found to have higher levels of dieldrin in their fats. [5]

Harmful Effects To The Human Body

Most human health problems linked to chlordane exposure are related to the digestive system, liver, and the nervous system. These health problems were mostly observed in people who had swallowed chlordane mixtures. Large doses of this chemical taken by mouth can lead to convulsions and death. One man had convulsions after having long-term skin contact with soil that contained large amounts of chlordane. Swallowing small doses or breathing in air that contain high levels chlordane vapors can lead to various nervous system effects. [4]

Exposure to chlordane/heptachlor and/or its metabolites are risk factors for lymphoma, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and breast cancer. Other non-cancer health effects of chlordane compounds include type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance, migraines, respiratory infections, obesity, immune-system activation, anxiety, depression, blurry vision, confusion, intractable seizures as well as permanent neurological damage. Trans-nonachlor and oxychlordane in serum of mothers during gestation has been linked with behaviors associated with autism in offspring at age 4-5. [6]

Symptoms of dieldrin poisoning have been observed in people exposed to large amounts of dieldrin during its manufacture and in people who have drank large amounts of the chemical either accidentally or intentionally. Most of these people had convulsions or other nervous system effects. Some also had kidney damage. Those who intentionally drank or ate large amounts of dieldrin died. People who were exposed to smaller amounts of the chemical experienced health problems due to the build up of the chemical in their body over time. Prolonged exposure to moderate levels causes uncontrollable muscle movements, vomiting, irritability, dizziness, and headaches. There are also cases where sensitive people seem to have developed a condition in which dieldrin led to their bodies destroying their own blood cells. Based on animal studies, the EPA has determined that dieldrin may be a human carcinogen. [5]

Exposure To Chlordane And Dieldrin

Everyone in the United States is expected to have been exposed to chlordane, mostly at low levels. Those who live in homes previously treated with chlordane receive the highest exposure. Traces of the chemicals can still be found in the air in homes many years after their treatment. Homes located in the deep south and southwest are more likely to have been treated. Areas affected may extend from the south of lower New England States to west of California. You can find out if your house was treated with chlordane by contacting your termite treatment service or by checking your records. More than 50 million people are estimated to have lived in homes treated with chlordane. [4]

The most common means of exposure to the chemical is through chlordane-contaminated food. Chlordane persists in the food supply because a great part of the farmland had been treated with the chemical in the 1960s and 1970s. Chlordane may be present in shellfish and fish caught in waters contaminated with the chemical. It has also been found in deep well drinking waters. [4]

Exposure to dieldrin occurs through ingestion of contaminated foods, such as shellfish or fish from contaminated streams or lakes, meats, dairy products, and root crops. You may also be exposed to the chemical when you breathe air, drink water, or come into contact with contaminated soil. The ones at greater risk of exposure are those living in homes that were once treated with dieldrin. [5]

How To Determine If You Have Been Exposed To Chlordane Or Dieldrin

Chlordane and its metabolites or breakdown products can be measured in breast milk, feces, urine, and blood. Tests have shown that majority of Americans have low levels of the metabolites in their body fat. These can stay stored in fats for long periods. Discovery of the chemical in breast milk or body fat does not indicate time of exposure, nor does it predict health effects. [4]

Dieldrin can be measured in your urine, body tissues, and blood. The chemical can be stored in the body for months. Just like that of chlordane, tests cannot determine when you were exposed or what adverse health effects you may experience. [5]


[1] Beyond Pesticides. Banned Pesticides Found in Connecticut Wells. http://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2012/07/banned-pesticides-found-in-connecticut-wells/

[2] Beyond Pesticides. Pesticides Found on School Grounds. http://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2007/07/pesticides-found-on-school-grounds/

[3] Beyond Pesticides. Studies Find “Pristine” National Parks Tainted by Pesticides. http://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2010/06/studies-find-%E2%80%9Cpristine%E2%80%9D-national-parks-tainted-by-pesticides/

[4] Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Public Health Statement for Chlordane. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=353&tid=62

[5] Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Public Health Statement for Aldrin/Dieldrin. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=315&tid=56

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlordane

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