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July 12, 1965

Organophosphorus Insecticide Toxicity

JAMA. 1965;193(2):169-170. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090020083033

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To the Editor:—  In the April 12, 1965 issue of The Journal (192: 178-179) there appears an answer by Joseph H. Holmes, MD, to a question concerning the prevention of poisoning by organophosphorus insecticides such as parathion and malathion.Some 50 organic compounds of phosphorus have been registered as insecticides by the US Department of Agriculture. They are closely related pharmacologically; their principal action is the ability to inhibit cholinesterase. This capacity and, hence, the toxicity varies markedly between individual compounds. The practical effect is a wide range of hazards associated with the use of these compounds.Most of the insecticides of the organophosphorus type are moderately to markedly toxic and hazardous. Dr. Holmes' answer evidently was predicated upon the assumption that all organophosphate insecticides fall into this category. The questioner specifically mentioned parathion and malathion. These compounds happen to occupy positions at the extreme ends of the range of

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