Biology of Termites

Termite Identification

Successful Methods of Termite Control

Termites and Pesticides

Termite Treaments and Concerns for New Construction


High Toxicity, DDT, and Organophosphates: Banned, But Never Gone

Some of the first chemical pesticides used for termite treatments were composed of organophosphates– highly stable (and toxic) molecules that affect the function of cells in both insects and mammals. The last of the organophosphates were banned by the EPA in 1988; but they may still be in your yard, under, or around your home.

Isn’t DDT Banned in America?
DDT, one of the most powerful chemical pesticides yet to be developed , was banned in the 1970’s. Other organophosphates were used as termite treatments until the late 1980’s, when the EPA banned them all together, reason being that they would not naturally break down in the environment to a less toxic form, and had been found built up in the fat cells of cows and other grazing animals.

Almost twenty years later , for instance, the University of Nebraska says there may still be a number of homes protected from termite damage by organophosphate termite treatments; which means these chemicals are still active in the ground, in the water, possibly in grazing animals, and may be affecting some humans, as well; though no research has been found to demonstrate the latter irrefutably.

  • Organophosphates were not only used for termite treatments . Termite control was, in fact, only one of the minor offshoots of the use of organophosphates. These chemicals were used heavily on farmlands, pastures, and plains prone to rodent and insect problems—largely with much less restriction than in residential areas. The vast majority of this land is now fast becoming zoned for residential use as farmland is sold off to real estate developers.

While these chemicals-- the most infamous of all being DDT—were banned decades ago, it is more than possible that these termite control chemicals are still in the ground around a number of newer homes, but in some instances is very much likely.

Before you buy a new home, be sure to check for records on previous use of the land: obtain a history of termite eradication treatments; find out what kind of termite spray was used in the last treatment before 1988; and talk to local exterminators to find out what types of termiticides and treatment methods were popular in the area 20 years ago.

  • For those of you who own your homes already, you should have this material collected and filed for your own reference . If the last termite treatments were made on your home in the early 80’s, it is possible that an organophosphate was used, and is still in effect. There is not much you can do about the contamination of your soil, but rest a bit easier knowing that it is not likely to cause any health problems for you or your children; even when legal, the application of these powerful chemicals was kept to a necessary minimum, well below the lethal, or even harmful, dosage of most mammals.