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Results of review of pesticide products containing dichlorvos

Historically dichlorvos was used in some domestic pesticide/biocides products and certain parts of the horticultural industry.

EU Review

Dichlorvos has been reviewed under the EU Biocidal Products Directive (BPD) and a decision has been published by the EU Commission not to included dichlorvos in Annex I/IA of the BPD (approved list of active substances for use in biocidal products).

Insecticide products containing dichlorvos shall no longer be placed on the market with effect from 1 November 2012.

UK Review

In the UK , following a review of dichlorvos, Ministers took action in 2002 to suspend the sale of all insecticide products containing dichlorvos and then withdraw the approvals of non-agricultural insecticide products as a precautionary public health measure.

Below is further information about the UK review.

The UK review was to minimise the exposure of householders and those who work with pesticides from a remote but potentially significant risk to their health. The decisions were taken by Ministers following the advice of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP), an independent expert scientific committee.

In reaching its decision, the ACP consulted members of the Committee on Mutagenicity and the Committee on Carcinogenicity, both of which report to the Government's Chief Medical Officer and the Chairman of the Food Standards Agency.

Dichlorvos FAQs

What is dichlorvos and where was it used?

Dichlorvos, [O-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-O,O-dimethylphosphate (DDVP)] was used as an organophosphorus insecticide against crawling and flying insects in the home, as well as in agricultural and veterinary products in the UK. It has been used extensively around the world for many years.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) administers the registration of those products that are used against crawling and flying insects in the home and other buildings.

In April 2002, there were 48 HSE-registered non-agricultural pesticide products containing dichlorvos. These include aerosols, slow release controllable and non-controllable cassettes, and slow release strips.

Why did Ministers decide to take action against these products?

The Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) had concerns over two aspects of the safety of dichlorvos, following new studies presented to them during a review of the substance.

Firstly, studies in animals suggested that dichlorvos may have the potential to be a genotoxic carcinogen (that is, it could be capable of causing cancer). As there was only very limited information to suggest a risk of carcinogenicity, and as the Committee believed that any risk of these effects being seen in humans were very small, they recommended that users may continue to use products which had already been bought.

Secondly, the ACP had concerns over the size of the safety margins between the amount of dichlorvos that members of the public may be exposed to and the amount that may have the potential to cause health effects. This was in relation to long-term exposure to dichlorvos. They concluded that the safety margins were not sufficiently large to satisfy modern regulatory standards.

The concern in this case was of effects on the functioning of the nervous system, called anticholinesterase effects.

What were the consequences of the decision?

From 21 April 2002 it has been illegal to advertise, sell or supply a range of insecticides containing dichlorvos.

From 15 April 2004 it has been illegal to continue to use or store aerosol products and most slow release controllable and non-controllable cassettes (including all amateur products used by the general public).

Approval for advertisement, sale, storage and supply for the purposes of disposal was revoked from 15 April 2005.

Professional use of dichlorvos strips and controllable and non-controllable cassettes in museums for specimen preservation was allowed to continue subject to restrictions until 19 April 2007.

What products were affected?

Non-agricultural pesticides containing dichlorvos are affected by this decision. All the affected HSE approved products were listed in the press release. Each HSE approved product is given a unique four digit HSE number, which must appear on the product label.

The professional-use-only products, which were allowed to be used until 19 April 2007, are:

4292 Funnel Trap Insecticidal Strip Slow release strip Agrisense BCS Ltd
5517 DDVP (Toxicant) Strip Slow release strip International Pheromone Systems Ltd
5081 Museum Flykiller Slow release strip Not to be marketed

What information were stakeholders given to act upon at the time?

Members of the public

Products containing dichlorvos are being removed from the supply chain, as a precautionary measure.

However, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides considers that the risk of health effects in humans is remote. As such, members of the public can continue to use dichlorvos products that they have already bought, and should eventually dispose of the used products in the domestic rubbish.

If they wish, they may dispose of unused product in rubbish bins immediately (if aerosols and slow release products are disposed of in domestic bins, any risks to refuse collectors and other workers are considered to be minimal).

Professional users

Professional users can continue to use products that have already been bought, although restrictions have been placed on their use.

Used products should be disposed of in the normal manner.

If they decide to dispose of these products before they have been used, they should in the first instance contact their suppliers. As disposal of these products may be subject to The Special Waste Regulations 1996 (as amended), retailers and wholesalers may need to contact their local waste disposal authority and/or a specialist waste disposal company.

Retailers and wholesalers

Retailers and wholesalers should have removed the affected products from sale from 21 April 2002, and stored them safely.

For disposal of these products, they are advised in the first instance to contact their suppliers. As disposal of these products would be subject to the Special Waste Regulations 1996 (as amended), retailers and wholesalers may need to contact their local council for details of their local waste disposal authority and/or a specialist waste disposal company.

Who is responsible for ensuring that dichlorvos products are removed from the shelves?

Companies selling dichlorvos products and retailers are responsible for removing products from the shelves. Failure to comply with these actions may lead to prosecution under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

What are the penalties for ignoring this suspension?

Approval for sale, advertisement and supply of products was suspended from 21 April 2002.

For aerosol products and most slow release controllable and non controllable cassettes (including all amateur products for use by the general public):

Approval for sale and advertisement of products was revoked from 15 April 2003.

Approval for supply, storage and use was revoked from 15 April 2004.

Approval for advertisement, sale, storage and supply for the purposes of disposal only was revoked on 15 April 2005.

Breaches of the approval conditions, such as anyone advertising, selling or supplying products containing dichlorvos after 21 April 2002, may be liable to prosecution under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

Enforcement will be conducted by HSE, local authority Environmental Health Officers or local authority Trading Standards Officers

I have used products containing dichlorvos for many years - do I need to worry?

Ministers took regulatory action as a precaution based on the advice of the ACP.

No evidence has been found of dichlorvos causing cancer in people.

The Committee on Mutagenicity considered that dichlorvos might be capable of causing changes in genetic material (DNA) at the site of contact. The Committee believed that it would be prudent to assume a genotoxic mechanism (has the potential to cause cancer by damaging genetic material) for the carcinogenic effects seen in animals.

Approvals for advertisement, sale and supply were suspended until further data could be generated on this. However, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides believed that any risk of these effects being seen in humans were so small that products that had already been bought could continue to be used.

Approvals for all amateur products and some professional products were revoked because of concerns over anticholinesterase effects (effects on the functioning of the nervous system). The ACP were concerned that the difference between the amount of dichlorvos that users may be exposed to, and the amount that may have the potential to cause health effects was not sufficiently large. However, prolonged exposure to relatively high levels of dichlorvos would be necessary to present a significant risk of adverse effects occurring and it was unlikely that effects would result from the use of the current products in 2002.

Is there a risk through inhalation?

Animal studies have not demonstrated cancers of the lung, or any other part of the body through inhalation exposure.

The ACP considered the risk assessments of short- and long-term inhalation exposure to dichlorvos from aerosols and controllable cassettes (non-agricultural products).

They concluded that whilst short-term (acute) exposures did not present an unacceptable risk, there was an insufficient margin between predicted exposures and exposures that could possibly cause effects for long-term (chronic) exposure. However, it was considered that any risks from the low-level exposures from current products in 2002 would be very small.

Has anyone ever got cancer as a result of being exposed to these products?

As far as we are aware no one has contracted cancer as a result of being exposed to dichlorvos. The review of dichlorvos examined the available published literature and found no evidence of dichlorvos-related cancers in humans.

What are anticholinesterase effects?

Dichlorvos is one of a number of insecticides that kill insects by interfering with nerve transmission.

It interferes with the destruction of a neurotransmitter called aceytlcholine, which is also involved in nerve transmission in humans. As such, exposure to dichlorvos could have the potential to cause health effects.

However, it was highly unlikely that any ill-health effects would occur from the exposure from the current pesticide products in 2002 and action was being taken as a precautionary measure.

What are the risks to people involved in manufacturing dichlorvos products?

The available evidence suggested that any risks following exposure to dichlorvos were very low. The risk assessments and exposure reduction methods used in manufacture should further minimise any such risks.

What are the risks of dichlorvos in food?

Dichlorvos is rarely found in food.

The consumption of produce already treated with dichlorvos (sourced from within or outside the UK) does not raise concerns since the levels of dietary exposure (from food residues monitoring data) are considered minimal.

A wide range of crops and foods are monitored for pesticide residues, and these monitoring data provide reassurance that the risk to consumers is minimal. Monitoring data conducted in the USA gives a similar picture.

For further information contact Chemicals Regulation Directorate by email to pesticides@hse.gsi.gov.uk.

Who are the Committees who have been involved in the decisions?

The Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) was established to advise Ministers on any matter relating to the control of pests. In particular, the law requires that the ACP should be consulted about new regulations and any changes in the approval of pesticides.

The Secretariat for the ACP is provided by the HSE.

The Committee on Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COM) is an independent advisory committee report to the Chief Medical Officer and the Chairman of the Board of the Food Standards Agency.

The COM provides advice to Government Departments and Agencies on matters concerning the potential mutagenicity of chemicals ranging from natural products to new synthetic chemicals used in pesticides or pharmaceuticals.

The Committee on Carcinogenicity in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COC) is a similar advisory committee except that it provides advice to Government Departments, devolved administrations and agencies on matters concerning the potential carcinogenicity of chemicals.

Which Ministers were involved in making these decisions?

Responsibility for the regulation of Pesticides in Great Britain lay with the five Ministerial signatories to the Control of Pesticides Regulations. These were the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Transport, Local Government and the Regions; Health; the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales.

Northern Ireland has responsibility for its own pesticide approval system under the Control of Pesticides (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1987 (as amended in 1997).

Updated 2012-10-25