Endosulfan is used as a insecticide on a wide variety of insects and mites, predominantly in temperate, subtropic and tropic climatic zones. In Europe it has been used for more than 40 years. Currently it is used at 340 tonnes per year, mainly in Spain but also in Belgium, France, Portugal and Switzerland. Endosulfan enters rivers by run-off from treated areas. The rivers transport it to the sea. It can also enter the ocean through atmospheric transport.
Endosulfan is moderately persistent in water. It's main metabolite is endosulfan sulfate which is more stable and equally toxic. In the soil endosulfan and endosulfan sulphate are highly persistent substances with a half-life for endosulphan sulphate of 120 days. Endosulfan is highly bioaccumulative and is expected to biomagnify. At constant exposure it is very toxic to all organisms. Concentrations of 1 mg/l are toxic to all marine organisms, while concentrations of only 0,04 µg/l are already toxic for crustaceans. In rats doses above 18 mg per kg body weight can prove lethal. Endosulfan and endosulfan sulfate are potentially endocrine disrupting compounds: in vivo tests with fish show that endosulphan induces changes on ovaries, developmental changes and has an impact on their behaviour.
Endosulfan concentrations of 0,06 μg/l have been found in water and of 81,6 μg/kg in the sediment. These are levels which can cause harm to organisms.
Environmental standards and legislation
- OSPAR Commission, 2004: OSPAR background document on endosulfan Citefout: Ongeldig label
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