The clinical toxicity of imidacloprid self-poisoning following the introduction of newer formulations

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2021 Apr;59(4):347-350. doi: 10.1080/15563650.2020.1815760. Epub 2020 Sep 22.


Background: Self-poisoning with imidacloprid has been previously shown to have low toxicity in humans. Since 2007 newer formulations of Imidacloprid with unknown solvents have been introduced and the potential clinical consequences of these products have not been described.

Methods: Clinical and demographic data were prospectively collected from admissions following oral ingestion of imidacloprid from seven hospitals in Sri Lanka. Data was collected from 2002 to 2007 in an already published study. We compared this data on poisonings collected from 2010 to 2016 following the introduction of new formulations of imidacloprid.

Results: From 2002-2007, there were 56 patients with ingestion to imidacloprid compared to 67 patients post 2010 The median time to presentation prior to 2007 was 4 h (IQR 2.3-6.0 hrs) and post 2010 was only 2.0 hr (IQR 1.5 to 3.1 hrs). The median amount ingested was 15 ml (IQR 10.0-50.0mls) prior to 2007 and 27.5mls (IQR 5.0-71.8mls) post 2010. In both studies most patients developed non-specific symptoms including nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain and headache. However, prior to 2007 only 1.9% of the cohort required mechanical ventilation due to respiratory failure and there were no reported deaths. In contrast, post 2010; deaths occurred in 3.0% of the cohort and 6.0% required mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure. The cause of mortality was due to one case of cardiorespiratory failure and the other due to a prolonged admission complicated with lobar pneumonia leading to decompensated liver failure on the background of undiagnosed liver cirrhosis.

Conclusion: Although acute exposure to imidacloprid is usually associated with mild non-specific symptoms, since the introduction of new formulations of imidacloprid, the toxic profile has changed with reported cases of death as well as an increase in cases requiring mechanical ventilation. The change in toxicity could be due to the solvents used in the newer formulations but also due to higher dose of imidacloprid described in our latter cohort. Further research into these solvents needs to be done and continued toxicovigilance is required.

Keywords: CNS toxicity; Imidacloprid; gut and hepatotoxicity; neonicotinoids.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / administration & dosage
  • Insecticides / poisoning*
  • Insecticides / toxicity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neonicotinoids / administration & dosage
  • Neonicotinoids / poisoning*
  • Neonicotinoids / toxicity
  • Nitro Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Nitro Compounds / poisoning*
  • Nitro Compounds / toxicity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy
  • Sri Lanka


  • Insecticides
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Nitro Compounds
  • imidacloprid