Organochlorines (OC) are a group of chlorinated compounds widely used as pesticides in agriculture and in mosquito control. These compounds come under the class of ‘Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)’ with high persistence in the environment.
- These chlorinated hydrocarbons were used extensively from the 1940s to the 1960s.
- They are banned or restricted in many countries as they are linked to potential health risks including cancer.
- Exposure to organochlorine pesticides over a short period may produce several disorders like muscle weakness, convulsions, slurred speech, headache, sweating, dizziness, nausea among others.
Applications of Organochlorines
The biggest application of organochlorine is the production of vinyl chloride, which is the most important industrial chemical mostly used in the production of polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Polyvinyl chloride is the 3rd most used synthetic plastic polymer in the world. Other than this, they are mostly used in pesticides.
Mysterious illness in Andhra Pradesh
Indian authorities are investigating whether the use of organochlorines as pesticides or in mosquito control caused the mysterious illness in Andhra Pradesh, which caused the death of one person and hospitalization of more than 400 people. The disease was first identified in a town in Eluru city and later spread to the adjoining regions.
However, the reports are not out but it is believed that the cause of the disease is organochlorines. They contain DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) which is widely used for anti-mosquito fogging.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane i.e. DDT is an almost odorless, colorless, and tasteless organochlorine. It was initially developed as an insecticide but its usage became limited due to its environmental impacts. DDT was first synthesized by Austrian chemist Othmar Zeidler in the year 1874. The insecticidal action of DDT was discovered in the year 1939 by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller. He was also awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in the year 1948 for his discovery.