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National Drinking Water Database
Toxaphene in Massachusetts
Toxaphene is a highly toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative insecticide anticipated to be carcinogenic to people, and banned from use in the U.S. in 1990. [read more]
Toxaphene is an agricultural pesticide that was widely used in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s in applications to cotton, tobacco, forests, turf, ornamental plants, grains, vegetables, livestock and fisheries. Toxaphene use increased as DDT was phased out in 1972, becoming the most heavily used pesticide in the early to mid-1970's (National Toxicology Program (NTP) 2002a). EPA banned it for most uses in 1982, and for all uses in 1990 because it is extremely persistent and toxic to people and wildlife (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 2005a).
Toxaphene is one of 12 "dirty dozen" persistent organic pollutants (POPs) facing global phase-out (Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) 2009). Meanwhile, although toxaphene can no longer be used in the U.S., it can still be manufactured in the U.S. and exported to countries that continue to use the pesticide, which contributes to global environmental pollution with this highly toxic chemical.
Toxaphene is classified by the government agencies as "reasonably anticipated" to be a human carcinogen, meaning that it is known to cause liver cancer and thyroid tumors in rats, but has not been adequately studied in people (NTP 2002a). In people, toxaphene has been linked with one type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (Schroeder 2001). EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) for toxaphene in drinking water at zero to protect people from the risk of cancer (USEPA 2009b). A MCLG is a non-enforceable health goal that provides the level of protection to prevent potential health problems.
According to EPA fact sheets for regulated drinking water chemicals (USEPA 2009b), short-term exposure to levels of toxaphene above the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 3 parts per billion (ppb) may cause central nervous system effects including restlessness, hyperexcitability, tremors, spasms or convulsions. Long-term exposure above the MCL has the potential to suppress the immune system; damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system; and possibly cause cancer. Before it was banned, toxaphene poisoning caused three deaths, all in children. Before they died, the children had abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures that caused respiratory failure (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 1996b).
Studies involving mice and monkeys show that toxaphene exposure can suppress the immune system, even at low doses (ATSDR 1996b, Tryphonas 2000). In laboratory animals, toxaphene causes behavioral changes and damage to the liver, heart, kidney, adrenal, thyroid, immune system (thymus) and brain (de Geus 1999). Rats exposed to toxaphene during development have skeletal abnormalities, suppressed immune function and altered behavior. Toxaphene can also disrupt endocrine regulation by altering hormone production by the adrenal and thyroid glands. Other studies, based on cells grown in a petri dish, show that toxaphene may interfere with estrogen action, sometimes mimicking estrogen, and in other cases counteracting estrogen (de Geus 1999).
When toxaphene is released into the environment, it transforms into substances known as toxaphene degradation products, which may be harmful to human health. Due to toxaphene's persistence, these residues continue to contaminate air, soil, food and water (USEPA 2005a). Toxaphene or toxaphene degradation products generally get into the body through eating fish or drinking water contaminated with these substances. Toxaphene degradation products can be detected in human blood, urine, breast milk and body tissues (Barr 2004). Some of these degradation products are more toxic and have a stronger cancer-promoting effect than toxaphene itself (USEPA 2005a).
The Most Polluted Communities in Massachusetts
1 water utilities reported detecting Toxaphene in tap water since 2004, according to EWG's analysis of water quality data supplied by state water agencies
Ranked by highest average Toxaphene level
|Rank||System||Population Served||Positive test results of total reported tests||Average Level|
|1||Groveland Water Department|
|5,800||1 of 2||0.17 ppb|
(0 to 0.33 ppb)
Health Based Limits for Toxaphene
|Maximum Contaminant Limit Goal (MCLG)||A non-enforceable health goal that is set at a level at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons occurs and which allows an adequate margin of safety. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||0 ppb|
|EPA Human Health Water Quality Criteria||Water quality criteria set by the US EPA provide guidance for states and tribes authorized to establish water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to protect human health. These are non-enforceable standards based upon exposure by both drinking water and the contribution of water contamination to other consumed foods. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||<0.01 ppb|
|California Public Health Goals||Defined by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as the level of contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. For acutely toxic substances, levels are set at which scientific evidence indicates that no known or anticipated adverse effects on health will occur, plus an adequate margin-of safety. PHGs for carcinogens or other substances which can cause chronic disease shall be based solely on health effects without regard to cost impacts and shall be set at levels which OEHHA has determined do not pose any significant risk to health.||0.03 ppb|
|One in one million (10-6) Cancer Risk||The concentration of a chemical in drinking water corresponding to an excess estimated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 1,000,000. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||0.03 ppb|
|Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL)||The enforceable standard which defines the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to health-based limits (Maximum Contaminant Level Goals, or MCLGs) as feasible using the best available analytical and treatment technologies and taking cost into consideration. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||3 ppb|
|One in ten thousand (10-4) Cancer Risk||The concentration of a chemical in drinking water corresponding to an excess estimated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 10,000. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||3 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 1-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects for up to one day of exposure. The One-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||4 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 10-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic effects for up to ten days of exposure. The Ten-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||4 ppb|
|Drinking Water Equivalent Level||A lifetime exposure concentration protective of adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects, that assumes all of the exposure to a contaminant is from drinking water. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||10 ppb|
Violation Summary for Toxaphene in Massachusetts
Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes the following violations of federal standards in Massachusetts since 2004
|Violation Type||Number of Violations|
|Failure to monitor regularly||28|