*IARC: International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Heptachlor is a termiticide and an insecticide used on seed grain and crops. It has also been used extensively for fire ant control, and is present as an impurity in the pesticide chlordane. Heptachlor is metabolised in animas to heptachlor epoxide. The use of heptachlor has been banned in Cyprus, Ecuador, the European Union, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Its use is severely restricted in Argentina, Israel, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, the U.S., and some countries of the former Soviet Union. In recent years, however, heptachlor ( and the closely related chlordane) has been used for major road building projects in Africa. For protection of residential structures in North-eastern Australia and Asia, and for crop protection in South America. The world's last producer of heptachlor, the U.S.-based Velsicol chemical Corporation, announced in 1997 that it would permanently cease production.
Human exposure to heptachlor is mainly through ingestion of food with residues of the compound and through inhalation in homes sprayed with heptachlor as an insecticide. In a 1996 study of breast-fed infants in Australia, 100 percent of the infants sampled were found to exceed the WHO ADI for heptachlor (0.0001 mg/kg bw). (WFPHA, World Federation of Public Health Associations, 2000).
Heptachlor is highly toxic to humans, and causes hyperexcitiation of the central nervous system and liver damage. Retrospective studies on people employed and heptachlor sprayers have shown significant increases in death from cerebrovascular disease. Heptachlor had been found to have significant effects on progesterone and oestrogen levels in laboratory rats. Other animal studies show nervous system disruption and liver damage.(WFPHA, 2000).
Heptachlor is subject to long-range transport as indicated by its presence in precipitation samples from Lake Erie. It has been found in mosquito fish, soft clam, oyster, and fathead minnow. (WFPHA, 2000).
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