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Chlordane: From Killing Termites to Compromising Human Health

Termites do not bite or sting. In fact, termites are clean and they do not carry a single disease-causing bacteria or virus in their bodies. However, because of their wood-destroying nature that has damaged so many useful properties, humans have created poisons that are supposed eliminate termites; poisons that eventually turned out as human killers rather than termite busters. Thus, although termites do not cause any direct harm to humans, because of their existence, humans are able to create poisons that led them to harm themselves.

Chlordane was very sensational when it was first released by Monsanto in somewhere in the '50s. It was odorless, easy to administer and most importantly, Chlordane was very effective in eliminating hundreds of thousands of termites in a couple of hours. The pesticide was so popular those days that about 30 million homeowners throughout the United States submitted their homes for Chlordane treatment. It was in 1988 when the US government finally made a stand against Chlordane and put a permanent ban on all pesticides containing Chlordane.

The Reason for the Ban

The people maneuvering the pesticide companies and the entomologists that worked for them only told their consumers that Chlordane will kill the termites, but they missed out the fact that Chlordane would also harm the people living in a Chlordane-treated house. This revelation only became apparent when house-dwellers started to become sick and doctors began pointing Chlordane as the culprit.

Initially, pesticide companies campaigned that the soil on which a house would be built should be treated with Chlordane first in order to make the soil impenetrable by termites. They have secured homeowners that it is impossible for the poison to seep into the house to harm its inhabitants because the concrete foundation of the house will be sufficient to seal away Chlordane. However, in the years that came, it was proven that the claim is actually faulty. Later on, a number of health problems have been associated with Chlordane: asthma, Neuroblastoma, cancer in children, problems with the brain, bronchitis, sinusitis, even leukemia and infertility.

Immediately, the US government called for a recall of all the pesticides that contain Chlordane and at the same time ban the manufacturing of any similar products. But this ban happened after more than 30 years of allowing Chlordane to be used by the public. The damage was already unimaginable.

Decades of Contamination

Houses built before 1988 are generally considered to be likely vessels of Chlordane since the chemical can continue to linger. The indoor air of all the houses treated with Chlordane has been considered unsafe for human habitation. No matter how much disinfection or counter-treatment is done indoors to make the air inside the houses safe, over time, the Chlordane that has been poured underneath the houses' foundation slowly evaporates and contaminates the indoor air once again. Hundreds of gallons of this toxic chemical have been deposited underneath that in one way or another; the chemical will definitely find its way out of the surface.

To date, there are still houses that mark more than 5 microgram of Chlordane level indoor which is the safely limit of Chlordane level as set by the USNAS (United States National Academy of Sciences). Statistically speaking, about 30% of the houses tested in New York and New Jersey as unsafe because of Chlordane contamination.

Health Problems Caused by Chlordane

Liver Damage

The effects of Chlordane to the human liver have been validated by the case of a 48-year-old woman who lives in a house that has been treated with Chlordane. Prior to living in the house, her health was recorded to be just alright, however, after 10 years of inhabiting a Chlordane-treated house, her liver became damaged. Doctors found low-level Chlordane mixed in her blood.

Doctors agree that Chlordane exposure can definitely cause nausea and some level of chest discomfort. The victim might also experience sore throat and other symptoms related to the respiratory system. As in the case of the woman, doctors observed that the damage in her liver is directly related to the Chlordane found in her blood.

Neuroblastoma and Leukemia

Because it was found out that the breakdown contaminant of Chlordane (heptachlor) can mix with human blood, doctors began to study the relationship of Chlordane exposure with the blood abnormalities of the children that where admitted in major hospitals in New Jersey and New York; the results horrified the doctors.

It was found out that 75% of all the children admitted in the hospital that lives in houses previously treated with Chlordane have Neuroblastoma or Leukemia. It was further found out that five cases of Neuroblastoma include children who were exposed to Chlordane while they are still inside the wombs of their mothers.

To strengthen the claim regarding Chlordane as the reason for the diseases suffered by these children, authorities have conducted an experiment using monkeys. The animals were exposed to Chlordane for three months while strictly monitoring their blood. In was found out that the number of white blood cells in the monkeys' blood dropped significantly. A number of test monkeys showed symptoms of leukopenia which is in some way similar to leukemia in humans.

Immune System Damage

The human body is naturally designed to combat invading bacteria and viruses through its immune system. However, it was found out that the immune system can be weakening because of certain factors. In a research conducted in Illinois, scientists were able to conclude that Chlordane is one of these factors.

Children living in Chlordane-treated houses are found out to produce just about half of the number of immune system cells as compared to those who are not exposed to the chemical. Of the total number of children tested, eleven children showed symptoms of autoimmunity or the condition wherein the immune system gets confused as to which are foreign bodies and which are not. The immune system then mistakenly attacks its own self. Autoimmunity results to so many different illnesses.
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