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Toxicological Properties of the Organophosphorus Insecticide Dimethoate
  1. D. M. Sanderson,
  2. E. F. Edson
  1. Medical Department, Fisons Pest Control Limited, Chesterford Park Research Station, Nr. Saffron Walden, Essex

    Abstract

    The results are presented of extensive toxicological studies on the systemic organophosphate insecticide dimethoate, and compared with published results from other laboratories. It behaves as a typical indirect anticholinesterase, by conversion in the liver to at least four short-lived active metabolites, whose hydrolysis products are rapidly excreted, mainly in the urine. The acute oral toxicity of dimethoate is low in mammals but higher in avians. Dermal absorption is notably slow and dermal toxicity correspondingly low. Cumulative dosing of rats and guinea-pigs gave no cholinesterase inhibition at 0·7 and 4 mg./kg./day respectively. Dietary feeding to growing rats caused no cholinesterase inhibition at 0·5 mg./kg./day and no other effect at 10 times this dose. The main plant metabolite is identical with one formed in the liver, and comparative feeding tests with normal dimethoate and that partly metabolized in vegetation showed that residue analysis determined total hazard. Tests on humans, some with 32P-labelled material, confirmed that metabolism and urinary excretion are very rapid, that skin absorption is very slow, and that at least 2·5 mg., and probably up to 18 mg., could be ingested daily for at least three weeks without cholinesterase inhibition or other effects. Vapour hazards proved negligible. Oral toxicity was not potentiated by any of 17 other insecticides. The earliest detectable effect of dimethoate poisoning was always erythrocyte cholinesterase inhibition. Symptoms of poisoning could be effectively treated by atropine but not by oxime therapy. No known cases of occupational poisoning have occurred during five years' commercial usage of dimethoate.

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