From WikiMD's Food, Medicine & Wellness Encyclopedia

Aldicarb is a potent insecticide and nematicide belonging to the carbamate class of chemicals. It is one of the most widely used pesticides globally, known for its effectiveness in controlling a variety of pests on crops. Aldicarb works by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme essential for nerve function in insects, leading to the pest's death. Despite its agricultural benefits, aldicarb poses significant risks to human and environmental health, prompting strict regulatory controls in many countries.

Chemical Properties[edit | edit source]

Aldicarb, chemically known as 2-methyl-2-(methylthio)propionaldehyde O-[(methylamino)carbonyl]oxime, is a white crystalline powder with a slight sulfurous odor. It is highly soluble in water, which facilitates its application but also contributes to its potential for groundwater contamination.

Usage[edit | edit source]

Aldicarb is primarily used in the cultivation of cotton, potatoes, soybeans, and citrus fruits, where it controls a broad spectrum of pests including aphids, whiteflies, mites, and nematodes. Its application methods vary from soil incorporation to foliar sprays, depending on the crop and target pests.

Health and Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

The toxicity of aldicarb to humans and non-target organisms is a major concern. It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance, with acute exposure causing symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at high enough doses, respiratory failure and death. Chronic exposure can lead to neurological and developmental issues. Aldicarb's ability to leach into groundwater and its persistence in the environment further exacerbate its risks, affecting not only human health but also aquatic life and birds.

Regulation[edit | edit source]

Due to its high toxicity, the use of aldicarb is heavily regulated or banned in several countries. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, for example, has imposed strict limits on its application rates and the crops on which it can be used. Moreover, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has considered aldicarb for inclusion due to its persistence and potential for long-range environmental transport.

Alternatives and Future Directions[edit | edit source]

The increasing regulatory restrictions on aldicarb have spurred the development of safer, more environmentally friendly pest control alternatives. These include biological control methods, such as the use of natural predators and parasites of pests, and the development of pest-resistant crop varieties through genetic engineering. The future of aldicarb use in agriculture is uncertain, with a growing emphasis on sustainable farming practices and integrated pest management strategies that minimize environmental and health risks.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD