Insecticides Toxic: Wait, What? How is that News?

The dangers of insecticides have been studied and documented in several places, at least as far as how harmful they are to living things. I mean, it’s literally a spray that kills things. But researchers at OSU have just noticed that many of the sprays commonly available on the market have inadvertently found a way to make them even more harmful.

The OSU study, led by Dr. Stacy Harper from the College of Ag Sci and the College of Engineering, looked at pest sprays that incorporate a microscopic plastic encapsulation delivery system. She hypothesized that the encapsulation, which is just what it sounds like — teeny tiny plastic balls containing poison — are more toxic when the capsules are smaller, as the capsules come in several sizes. To test her theory, she introduced the poison’s active ingredient, lambda-cyhalothrin, to embryos of zebrafish in varying sized encapsulations and no encapsulation at all, and observed the results.

It turns out capsule size makes no difference.

“What was more surprising,” said Harper in a press release, “was that the active ingredient alone was significantly less toxic than either of the encapsulated formulations. We didn’t set out to test this, but it’s what we found.”

Yeah, the capsules themselves actually make the substance more toxic than a pure dose, and the zebrafish showed it suffering a variety of malformations and dying. Yikes.

This is especially important because the manufacturers don’t have to do any testing on the capsules’ toxicity, only the poison itself.  So it’s unclear what effects this has had on the environment already.

“The testing assumes that the encapsulation makes no difference in the toxicity,” Harper noted, “but in this case, at least, it does. So it’s important to figure out how the carrier of a chemical product affects its toxicity in order to determine whether our current risk assessments offer enough protection against products that incorporate this encapsulation technology.”

 The good news is none of you will be planting anything anytime soon anyway because the weather is horrible.

By Sidney Reilly