May 1994
Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH)

CAS number: 83-79-4

NIOSH REL: 5 mg/m3 TWA

Current OSHA PEL: 5 mg/m3 TWA

1989 OSHA PEL: Same as current PEL

1993-1994 ACGIH TLV: 5 mg/m3 TWA

Description of substance: Colorless to red, odorless, crystalline solid.

LEL: . . Unknown

Original (SCP) IDLH*: Unknown [*Note: “Effective” IDLH = 5,000 mg/m3 — see discussion below.]

Basis for original (SCP) IDLH: ACGIH [1971] reported that Lehman [1949], on the basis of his own work and a literature survey, estimated the fatal human oral dose to be about 200 grams. Accordingly, this is a relatively nontoxic compound for humans, and thus respirators have been assigned based on the assigned protection factor afforded by each device up to 1,000 ´ the OSHA PEL of 5 mg/m3 (i.e., 5,000 mg/m3); only the “most protective” respirators are permitted for use in concentrations exceeding 5,000 mg/m3.

Short-term exposure guidelines: None developed


Lethal dose data:

Species Reference Route LD50(mg/kg) LDLo(mg/kg) Adjusted LD Derived value
Rat Kenaga 1979 oral 60 —– 420 mg/m3 42 mg/m3
Rat Lehman 1951 oral 132 —– 924 mg/m3 92 mg/m3
Rat Lightbody & Matthews 1936 oral 25 —– 175 mg/m3 18 mg/m3
Mouse Soloway 1976 oral 2.8 —– 20 mg/m3 2.0 mg/m3

Human data: The fatal oral dose has been reported to be 200 grams [Lehman 1949]. [Note: An oral dose of 200 grams is equivalent to a worker being exposed to about 130,000 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.]


1. ACGIH [1971]. Rotenone (commercial). In: Documentation of the threshold limit values for substances in workroom air. 3rd ed. Cincinnati, OH: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, p. 224.

2. Kenaga EE [1979]. Acute and chronic toxicity of 75 pesticides to various animal species. Down to Earth 35:25-31.

3. Lehman AJ [1949]. Pharmacological considerations of insecticides. Q Bulletin Assoc Food Drug Off U.S. 13(2):65-70.

4. Lehman AJ [1951]. Chemicals in foods: a report to the Association of Food and drug Officials on current developments. Part II. Pesticides. Section I. Introduction. Q Bulletin Assoc Food Drug Off U.S. 15(4):122-123.

5. Lightbody DH, Matthews JA [1936]. Toxicology of rotenone. Ind Eng Chem 28:809-811.

6. Soloway SB [1976]. Naturally occurring insecticides. Environ Health Perspect 14:109-117.

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2014