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UC Riverside scientists isolate microorganisms that break down a toxic pesticide

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Feb. 27, 2003 - Scientists at the University of California, Riverside report in the Journal of Environmental Quality (JEQ) that they have isolated microorganisms capable of degrading endosulfan, a chlorinated insecticide widely used all over the world and which is currently registered to control insects and mites on 60 U.S. crops. JEQ, established in 1972, is published jointly by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Bioremediation of contaminated sites and water bodies by using these microbial strains will provide an environment free of endosulfan toxicity, the researchers argue in their paper. The research stands to benefit the agrochemical industry and environmental agencies involved in remediation of soil and water contaminated with organochlorine pesticides. Currently, bioremediation is considered the most cost-effective technology to remediate contaminants, including pesticides. The usefulness of the new technology may be best measured economically in soil and water quality impacted by pesticide spillage, overdosing, and cleanup of agrochemical equipment.

Many health hazards are associated with endosulfan. Endosulfan is a persistent organic pollutant or "POP" that enters the air, water, and soil during its use and manufacture. Owing to the persistence in the environment, residues of endosulfan can enter the food chain and directly affect public health. Endosulfan's residues have also been found in sediments and in surface and ground waters. Endosulfan affects the central nervous system, kidney, liver, blood chemistry and parathyroid gland and has reproductive, teratogenic (causing birth defects) and mutagenic (causing genes to mutate more frequently) effects.

"We have been successful in isolating strains that can use endosulfan as a carbon and energy source," said William Frankenberger, director of the UCR Center for Technology Development an
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@citrus.ucr.edu
909-787-2645
University of California - Riverside
27-Feb-2003


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