What is endosulfan?

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Endosulfan, a truckload of which reportedly went down with the Princess of the Stars and may have contaminated the waters around the capsized vessel, is a highly regulated pesticide that is harmful or even lethal to humans if mishandled.

“At toxic levels and following ingestion it can cause death or affect the central nervous system, manifesting as headache, dizziness, tremors and convulsions, and may also include cardiovascular symptoms,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.

Endosulfan is cream to brown in color. It may appear in the form of crystals or flakes. It has a smell like turpentine, but does not burn. It does not occur naturally in the environment. It is used to control insects on food and non-food crops and also as a wood preservative, according to the State of Queensland Health Fact Sheet and the US Department of Health and Human Services-Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Endosulfan is commonly used in pineapple plantations.

“Blood from exposed individuals can be tested to detect presence of the poison. Treatment is supportive,” he said.

Endosulfan, Duque said, “when released in the environment, enters the air, water and soil. It does not dissolve easily in water.”

“Most of the chemical in surface water is attached to soil particles floating in the water or attached to soil at the bottom,” he added.

“The small amounts of endosulfan that dissolve in water break down over time,” the DOH chief explained.

Endosulfan has been blamed for causing mental and genetic disorders, skin diseases and even cancer in rural communities in India.

For animals, long-term exposure to endosulfan can also damage the kidneys, testes, and liver, studies show. But it is not known if these effects also occur in humans.

With endosulfan’s deadly qualities, the DOH chief warned the public against consuming fish or other seafood caught in the area near the sunken Princess of the Stars.

“Fish and marine life harvested from the area are now considered not fit for human consumption until complete tests indicate that there was no endosulfan contamination,” Duque said.

“There are no signs of endosulfan contamination in and around the water near the ship” or reports of fish kills or divers getting sick.

“But the amount of endosulfan in the bodies of marine products can be several times greater than in the surrounding water,” Duque pointed out.

Dr. Lynn Panganiban, of the Poison Center of the University of the Philippines, also said that fish caught in contaminated waters would no longer be fit for human consumption.


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