Chlordane – A Legacy Pesticide with Persistent Effects in the Environment and Cannabis Industry
Author: Luke Khoury, Senior Scientist
Editor: Angelica Shubbie, Quality Systems Coordinator
Chlordane, developed in 1948, is a highly chlorinated chemical species with molecular formula C10H6Cl8; it was originally used in the environment to protect homes, crops, and power lines. Usage of this pesticide was highly prevalent until its ban in the United States in 1988(1). This compound belongs to a very specific group of congeneric legacy pesticides, which include toxaphene and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)(2). Linking these pesticides is their high toxicity to life of both target pests and other benign organisms. Still lingering in the world today, chlordane pervades nearly every corner of our environment (and even our bodies) at trace levels. In 2016, Italian researchers reported significant levels of these types of environmental endocrine disruptors in the neurodevelopment of fetal and infant brain samples that had undergone either sudden intrauterine unexplained death syndrome (SIUDS) or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)(3) . Due to its resistance to degradation in the environment and fat-soluble properties, it often presents issues of bioaccumulation in organisms which store fat. The process of bioaccumulation occurs when contaminants concentrate upwards through the food chain. For this reason, chlordane can be detected in a wide range of products such as meat, poultry, fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables. These persistent effects are now being detected by laboratories in the California cannabis industry.
As labs continue to detect chlordane throughout the state’s diverse supply network of biomass, hot spots (regions of higher relative concentration) may be found. In support of farmers, labs are assisting in identifying sources of potential contamination so that proper remediation of cultivation practices can be undertaken. Possible sources of contamination include land or buildings treated for termite infestations prior to 1988, for which chlordane was likely applied. Additionally, chlordane remains as an approved chemical to coat underground powerlines and properties nearby may find detectable amounts of the pesticide. Chlordane can be distributed in the environment via organism displacement or landscape renovation. By working closely with labs, the cannabis industry operators can evaluate these avenues of contamination and develop improved protocols that protect both the integrity of legal cannabis products and consumers’ health. Labs carry the ultimate responsibility as the final quality control checkpoint prior to consumption of legal products by the general public.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 1994 Toxicological profile for chlordane. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service
- Shields, W. J., Saba, T., Boehm, P. D., & Pietari, J. (2015). Introduction to Environmental Forensics, 347–393.doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-404696-2.00010-2
- Roncati L., Termopoli V. and Pusiol T. (2016) Negative Role of the Environmental Endocrine Disruptors in the Human Neurodevelopment. Front. Neurol. 7:143. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2016.00143