What is chlorpyrifos?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate used to kill insects and other pests. This complex pesticide works by attacking and interrupting the nerve processes of insects and animals. As the chemical builds up in the body, it eventually leads to the paralysis and death of the animal or insect in question. This is why these types of chemicals are used in agriculture as pesticides. They are extremely effective and can be highly toxic to mammals, including humans, in high enough doses.

Over 60 million acres of crops are sprayed annually in the United States to deal with pest problems. Normally used in spray form, these chemicals can exterminate a large variety of agricultural and garden pests. Professional exterminators use chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates to eliminate pests like termites and cockroaches in both institutional and residential areas. Many people also use them to protect their lawn from a variety of bugs. However because pesticides can be lethal in large enough doses, pesticide companies issue strict safety guidelines. They always advise people to make sure that both children and pets are kept away from lawns being treated for a certain amount of time until the spray has taken effect. Because both domestic pets and children have a lower body weight they can be more adversely affected by the chemicals. They are also closer to the ground and therefore more likely to breathe in the fumes, which make them more vulnerable than adults.


Although you can still use chlorpyrifos in certain s circumstances, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted to protect not only children and domestic pets but also marine animals from the adverse effects of these chemicals. Therefore, because of these environmental concerns, certain chemicals brands were phased out of general use at the end of 2002.