Carbofuran toxicity

J Toxicol Environ Health. 1994 Dec;43(4):383-418. doi: 10.1080/15287399409531931.


Carbofuran, an anticholinesterase carbamate, is commonly used as an insecticide, nematicide, and acaricide in agricultural practice throughout the world. Due to its widespread use in agriculture, contamination of food, water, and air has become imminent, and consequently adverse health effects are inevitable in humans, animals, wildlife, and fish. Currently, carbofuran's involvement is most frequently encountered in malicious poisoning. The literature on chemical properties, acute toxicity data, poisoning incidences, pharmacokinetics, and mechanism of toxicity of carbofuran is briefly reviewed. Much emphasis is given to the metabolism of carbofuran, and the impact of carbofuran and its two major metabolites (3-hydroxycarbofuran and 3-ketocarbofuran) on overall toxicity. Biochemical (cholinergic and noncholinergic), hematological, and immunological effects induced by carbofuran are discussed in detail. Carbofuran and/or its major metabolites can cross the placental barrier and produce serious effects on the maternal-placental-fetal unit. Carbofuran's toxicity can be potentiated by simultaneous exposure with other cholinesterase inhibitors. Literature on various biomarkers of carbofuran exposure and on induced adverse health effects is also presented. To date, a combination of atropine and memantine remains the most effective antidotal treatment against acute carbofuran toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced
  • Animals
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Carbofuran / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carbofuran / metabolism*
  • Carbofuran / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / blood
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Memantine / pharmacology
  • Mutagens / metabolism
  • Mutagens / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Soil Pollutants / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Mutagens
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Atropine
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Carbofuran
  • Memantine