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Water: Basic Information about Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants

Basic Information about Toxaphene in Drinking Water

Toxaphene at a Glance

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0.003 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or 3 parts per billion (ppb)

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) = zero

Health Effects
Some people who drink water containing toxaphene in excess of the MCL over many years could experience kidney, liver, or thyroid problems; increased risk of cancer.

Drinking Water Health Advisories provide more information on health effects

Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number

Sources of Contamination
Runoff/leaching from insecticide used on cotton and cattle

List of all Regulated Contaminants (PDF) (6 pp, 396 K, About PDF)

EPA regulates toxaphene in drinking water to protect public health. Toxaphene may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.

What is toxaphene
Toxaphene, a synthetic organic chemical, is an amber, waxy organic solid with a piney odor.

Uses for toxaphene
Toxaphene was used as an insecticide for cotton and vegetables, and on livestock and poultry. In 1982, most of its uses were banned and in 1990, all uses were banned in the United States.

If you are concerned about toxaphene in a private well, please visit:

What are toxaphene's health effects?
Some people who drink water containing toxaphene well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience kidney, liver, or thyroid problems; increased risk of cancer.

This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for toxaphene. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with toxaphene in drinking water when the rule was finalized.

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What are EPA's drinking water regulations for toxaphene?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for toxaphene is zero. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for toxaphene, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.003 mg/L or 3 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Phase II Rule, the regulation for toxaphene, became effective in 1992. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed toxaphene as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the zero MCLG and 0.003 mg/L or 3 ppb MCL for toxaphene are still protective of human health.

States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for toxaphene than EPA.

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How does toxaphene get into my drinking water?
Major sources of toxaphene in drinking water are runoff/leaching from a banned insecticide that was used on cotton and cattle. It is very persistent, remaining in soil for up to 14 years. It is not expected to leach to groundwater. It will not break down by microbial or other means. Though it strongly binds to soils and the sediments of water bodies, it may gradually evaporate to the air where it is slowly broken down by sunlight. Toxaphene has a high potential to accumulate in aquatic life.

A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.

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How will I know if toxaphene is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that toxaphene levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of toxaphene so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.

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How will toxaphene be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing toxaphene to below 0.003 mg/L or 3 ppb: granular activated carbon.

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How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book's government listings are a good starting point for local information.

Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.

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