Biomonitoring Summary

Carbamate Insecticides Overview


CAS No. 1563-66-2

General Information

Carbofuranphenol is a metabolite of four different carbamate insecticides: benfuracarb; carbofuran; carbosulfan; and furathiocarb. Of these, only carbofuran is registered in the U.S. Carbofuran is a broad spectrum restricted-use insecticide and nematicide applied to a variety of field, fruit, and vegetable crops for control of beetles, borers, nematodes, weevils and similar pests. Recently, registered uses of carbofuran were cancelled except for the following: field corn; potatoes; pumpkins; sunflowers; pine seedlings; and spinach grown for seed (U.S.EPA, 2009). About 1 million pounds have been used annually (U.S.EPA, 2007). Carbofuran is not registered for use in residential settings or food-handling establishments. In soils of varying composition, carbofuran has a half-life ranging from one to three months. It can leach into ground waters, but has been detected infrequently in either surface or ground waters (Gilliom, 2007; USGS, 2007). Carbofuran is very highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, and it is highly toxic to birds where granular applications are used, but these have been restricted since 1991 (U.S.EPA, 2007).

General population exposure can occur through consumption of food contaminated with carbofuran. Because estimated acute intakes from some dietary components in young children may exceed recommended intake limits, U.S.EPA is in the process of revoking current regulations that allow carbofuran residues in food (U.S.EPA, 2009). Pesticide handlers and applicators are at greater risk for exposure and a number of incidents of systemic poisoning have been reported.After absorption, carbofuran is metabolized to phenolic metabolites and 3-hydroxycarbofuran, which are quickly eliminated in the urine.

Human health effects from carbofuran at low environmental doses or at biomonitored levels from low environmental exposures are unknown.Carbofuran was very highly acutely toxic in animal studies, causing effects related to acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibition. In contrast, carbofuranphenol is not an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase enzymes. Carbofuran was not teratogenic, but high chronic doses in animals produced nonspecific developmental effects, such as reduced weight gain and pup survival (WHO, 2004). Testicular toxicity at subacute doses was reported in adult rats, rat pups, and dogs (Pant et al., 1995, 1997; WHO, 2004). Carbofuran was not mutagenic or carcinogenic in animals (U.S.EPA, 2007). It is not rated by IARC with regard to human carcinogenicity. Additional information is available from U.S.EPA at: icon.

Biomonitoring Information

Urinary carbofuranphenol levels reflect recent exposure. The level of this metabolite in urine may reflect exposure to carbofuran or to carbofuranphenol as a degradation product in the environment or food. In the U.S. representative subsamples from NHANES 1999-2000 and 2001-2002, most urinary levels of carbofuranphenol were below the limit of detection (CDC, 2009). In a nonrandom subsample from NHANES III (1988-1994), the 99th percentile level of carbofuranphenol was 2.1 µg/L (Hill et al., 1995). In a previous study of U.S. farmers and their families, carbofuranphenol was detected in 6.7% of urine samples (Shealy et al., 1997); the 95th percentile value in that study was 0.73 µg/L.Urinary levels of carbofuranphenol in two applicators were three and sixfold higher than the detection limit for the NHANES 2003-2004 subsample (Petropoulou et al., 2006).

Finding a measurable amount of carbofuranphenol in urine does not imply that the level of carbofuranphenol causes an adverse health effect. Biomonitoring studies on levels of carbofuranphenol provide physicians and public health officials with reference values so that they can determine whether people have been exposed to higher levels of carbofuran or related carbamates than are found in the general population. Biomonitoring data can also help scientists plan and conduct research on exposure and health effects.


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Page last reviewed: April 7, 2017