Environmental fate of chlorpyrifos

Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1993;131:1-150. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4612-4362-5_1.


Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphorus compound that displays broad-spectrum insecticidal activity against a number of important arthropod pests. As a result, it is employed in a wide variety of agricultural and specialty pest control scenarios. Various formulations of chlorpyrifos have been developed to maximize stability and contact with pests and minimize human exposure. From corn agriculture in the United States to termite control in Japan to cotton agriculture in Egypt to citrus horticulture in Spain, chloropyrifos has been successfully employed to combat insect and other arthropod pests threatening the production of food and fiber and maintenance of human health. Due to the nonpolar nature of the chlorpyrifos molecule, it possesses a low water solubility (< 2 ppm) and great tendency to partition from aqueous into organic phases in the environment (log P of 4.7-5.3). It is characterized by an average soil and sediment sorption coefficient (Koc) of 8498 and aquatic bioconcentration factor of 100-5100 in fish. As a result of its high propensity for sorption, its movement through and over the soil profile is limited. It has been found to be relatively immobile vertically in soil and has not proved to be a groundwater contaminant. Surface runoff and erosion mobility are also low, and, in general, less than 0.3% of soil surface application has been observed to move even under the heaviest simulated precipitation conditions. Chlorpyrifos has an intermediate vapor pressure (2 x 10(-5) mm Hg, 25 degrees C), and under some conditions volatility is a significant mechanism of dissipation. This is especially true for plant foliage, from which it is the major means of loss, to some extent from water surfaces, and to a lesser degree from moist soil surfaces. Chlorpyrifos is a degradable compound, and both abiotic and biotic transformation processes effect its degradation within environmental compartments (Fig. 1). In all cases, the major pathway of transformation involves cleavage of the phosphate ester bond to form 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCP). Hydrolytic transformation, although relatively slow in pure water under ideal conditions (half-lives of 29-74 d at pH 7, 25 degrees C), may be catalyzed under certain environmental conditions. These include alkaline conditions in water (pH > or = 8) and alkaline (pH > or = 7.5) and air-dry conditions in soil, and in some soils hydrolysis may be the major means of dissipation (Fig. 2).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biotransformation
  • Chlorpyrifos / chemistry
  • Chlorpyrifos / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / chemistry
  • Insecticides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / analysis


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Chlorpyrifos