What are organophosphates?
There are almost 900 different bug killers (pesticides) that can be used in the United States. A small number (37) belong to a class of insect killers (insecticides) known as organophosphates. The chemicals in this class kill insects by disrupting their brains and nervous systems. Unfortunately, these chemicals also can harm the brains and nervous systems of animals and humans. These chemicals stop a key enzyme in the nervous system called cholinesterase from working, and this can make people ill.
How can someone come into contact with organophosphates?
Poisoning from organophosphates can happen through —
Organophosphates as weapons: As a weapon, organophosphates may be spread through the air. It also can be an “agent of opportunity.” This means that someone could explode the vehicle of transportation (truck or train) that is being used to ship the chemical, or destroy tanks that store the chemical. The organophosphates would then be released into the air.
Please note: Just because you come into contact with an organophosphate does not mean you will get sick from it.
What happens if someone gets sick from an organophosphate?
Symptoms of mild organophosphate poisonin g may include the following:
Severely poisoned people may develop seizures, paralysis or coma; some may die.
How likely are organophosphates to kill someone?
Organophosphates can be very toxic. However, certain classes of this group are more poisonous than others. Overall, t he effects of an organophosphate will depend on the type of chemical the person comes into contact with, concentration of exposure, length of time and way the person is exposed. A highly concentrated solution or large amount in the air is more likely to cause severe effects, including death.
What is the treatment for organophosphate poisoning?
Hospitals and other health care experts have medicines that reverse the effects of organophosphate poisonings.
Is there a vaccine for organophosphate poisoning?
No, there is no vaccine for organophosphate poisoning.
What should be done if someone comes into contact with an organophosphate?
If you think that you or someone you know may have come into contact with an organophosphate, contact the local county health department right away. (Visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/local/alpha.htm for a listing of all county health departments in Illinois or check your local phone book.)
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of organophosphate poisoning, call your health care provider or the Illinois Poison Center right away. The toll-free number for the poison center is 1-800-222-1222.
Where can one get more information about organophosphates?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Illinois Department of Public Health
Illinois Poison Center