What is Toxaphene?

Toxaphene, also known as chlorinated camphene, is a mixture of about 200 organic compounds, formed by chlorinating camphene (C10H16) to an overall chlorine content of about 67-69% by weight. It is usually found as a waxy solid that is yellow to amber in colour, although it can also occur as a gas. Toxaphene has an odour similar to pine and can remain in the environment for up to 14 years without degrading.

What is Toxaphene used for?

Toxaphene was used as an insecticide from the late 1940s until 1982, when the EPA cancelled all uses of it as a pesticide or pesticide ingredient. It was used mainly on cotton, but also on flowers due its relatively nontoxic effect on bees. Toxaphene was also used to control insects on cotton, corn, fruit, vegetables, and small grains as well as protecting livestock from pests such as lice, fleas, ticks, mange, and scab mites. 

Until the early 1970s, toxaphene was mixed with another chemical called rotenone and commonly used in rivers and lakes to eradicate fish that were considered a detriment to sport fishing. 

In 1990, toxaphene was banned for all uses in the USA with a global ban following in 2001. Currently, toxaphene is only used for:

  • Scabies control in cattle
  • Insect control for pineapples in Puerto Rico
  • Insect control for bananas in the Virgin Islands
  • Emergency treatment of cotton, corn, and small grains

Pesticides similar to toxaphene are still being produced and used in other countries including in India, parts of Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa. 

One of the few uses of toxaphene that is still permitted, is as a pesticide for pineapple crops (in Puerto Rico).
One of the few uses of toxaphene that is still permitted, is as a pesticide for pineapple crops (in Puerto Rico).

Toxaphene Hazards

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

Toxaphene produces respiratory irritation in the form of inflammation. Inhalation of toxaphene dust can cause serious damage to the health and individuals with existing respiratory conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, possibly incurring further disability. Those with prior kidney damage should also take the proper precautions as further damage can occur if the chemical is not handled properly. 

Toxic effects may result from the ingestion of the chemical. Early symptoms include a prickling/tingling sensation in the mouth, tongue and lower face, followed by dizziness, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, tremors and more. Higher exposure to toxaphene can cause severe convulsions followed by death (possibly due to respiratory failure). The lethal dose by ingestion for humans is estimated at 2-7 grams.

Skin contact with toxaphene produces irritation, inflammation and possibly dermatitis. Greater harm can occur following absorption and open cuts and wounds should not be exposed to the chemical for this reason. Symptoms following skin absorption include muscle twitching, headaches, nausea, vomiting, malaise and dizziness.

Direct eye contact with toxaphene may produce tearing and redness. Slight abrasive damage may also result. 

Toxaphene Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR. Seek medical attention without delay. 

If swallowed, a slurry of activated charcoal (at least 3 tablespoons in water) should be given to the patient. Although inducing vomiting might be recommended, it is normally a last resort due to the risk of aspiration. If vomiting is induced, lean the patient forward or place them on their left side to maintain open airways and prevent aspiration. Seek medical attention without delay. 

If skin exposure occurs, immediately remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of water and soap. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation. 

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention without delay.

Toxaphene Safety Handling

Emergency showers and eyewash fountains should be accessible near the area of the potential exposure to the chemical and adequate ventilation should be available to remove/dilute the contaminant (a local exhaust should be installed if necessary).

The PPE recommended when handling toxaphene include; safety glasses with side shields, chemical goggles, chemical protective gloves (e.g. PVC), safety footwear/gumboots and full body protective clothing.

You can find more comprehensive information on the safe handling of toxaphene on your SDS. If you require SDS Management Software or information about our chemicals management solutions, contact us at to see how we can help.