Carbofuran is a carbamate pesticide that’s rapidly absorbed by plant roots and is soluble in water. It’s used widely for controlling insects all around the world and is a common drinking water contaminant.
In this guide, we’ve shared an overview of carbofuran in water, including what it is, its potential health effects, how it contaminates drinking water supplies, and more.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Carbofuran is a pesticide that’s used to control insects on a variety of crops, including soybeans, corn, and potatoes.
- This drinking water contaminant typically enters water supplies through runoff and seepage from farmers’ fields.
- Carbofuran has no taste, smell, or odor when present in trace amounts in tap water – a danger since it’s one of the most toxic to human insecticides that exist today.
Table of Contents
- ❔ What Is Carbofuran In Water?
- 🚰 How Does Carbofuran Get Into Water?
- 🔎 How To Know If Your Water Contains Carbofuran
- 🚱 Is Carbofuran In Drinking Water Dangerous?
- 📉 Is Carbofuran In Tap Water Regulated?
- 🧪 How To Test For Carobfuran In Tap Water
- 👩🏽⚕️ What To Do If You’re Concerned About Carbofuran In Your Water
- ⚠️ Other Ways You Might Be Exposed To Carbofuran
- 📑 Final Word: Removing Carbofuran From Water
❔ What Is Carbofuran In Water?
Carbofuran is a pesticide – specifically an insecticide – that’s a member of the carbonates family, with the formula C12H15NO3. It has been used widely for decades to control insects like beetles, rootworms, and nematodes when growing a variety of crops, but, due to recent discoveries regarding its toxicity, has been phased out in the US for many purposes.
According to the US EPA, almost all the federally registered uses of carbofuran have now been canceled. There are a few exceptions: carbofuran is still used on food crops, like potatoes, sunflowers, field corn, and pumpkins; and it’s also used when growing spinach for seed and pine seedlings.
Carbofuran is moderately present in soil and is water soluble, meaning that it can dissolve in surface water supplies and rainwater that seeps through the earth into groundwater sources. It has a half-life of 30 to 120 days.
You might hear carbofuran referred to as one of its trade names, including Furadan 4F, Brifur, Yaitox, and Crisafuran.
🚰 How Does Carbofuran Get Into Water?
The main causes of carbofuran contamination in drinking water are runoff and soil seepage from farmland.
When carbofuran is used on a field of crops, rain and flooding can carry the pesticide away from the field and into a nearby surface water supply.
Eventually, this water supply may travel into a reservoir or be pumped to a treatment plant and processed for drinking. The water treatment methods used at these plants usually aren’t sufficient to remove carbofuran, so trace amounts remain in the water that’s delivered to your home.
Rain and snow that seeps through the earth could also carry carbofuran, depositing the chemical in underground aquifers and springs.
In a 1992 fact sheet, the Environmental Protection Agency said that carbofuran has a “strong potential” to contaminate both surface water and groundwater supplies.
This potential is now likely lower today, thanks to the phasing out of the widespread use of carbofuran in the US.
However, carbofuran is still used for many farming purposes, so the risk of this pesticide entering our water supplies is still present.
🔎 How To Know If Your Water Contains Carbofuran
Here are some of the ways you can determine whether or not your water contains carbofuran.
Check Your Water Quality Report
A quick and free method of finding out whether your water contains carbofuran is to check your most recent Water Quality Report, or Consumer Confidence Report.
This is only an option if you get your water from a municipal supplier. Water utilities are legally required to provide annual Water Quality Reports to their customers that share the contaminants and water parameters that are detected through routine testing.
If carbofuran is detected in your drinking water, your water utility should list this contaminant in your report, highlighting the range detected and the average concentration present.
You can find your Consumer Confidence Report on your water company’s website.
Test Your Water
You could also test your water for carbofuran. We recommend this option if you get your water from a private well or you just want to confirm that your water utility’s data for carbofuran is accurate.
There are tests you can buy that detect a range of pesticides, including carbofuran. You might also find a test that’s solely for detecting carbofuran in drinking water.
We’ve shared more on how to test your water for carbofuran later in this guide.
🚱 Is Carbofuran In Drinking Water Dangerous?
Carbofuran in drinking water is considered very dangerous – in fact, it’s said to be a highly toxic insecticide for humans, with a host of known health effects.
A World Health Organization report has highlighted some of the studies that have been conducted into the potential health effects of carbofuran exposure.
According to these studies, ingestion of carbofuran may have the following symptoms and health effects:
- Blurred vision
- Decreased body weight
Some of the known long-term health effects of ingesting carbofuran in drinking water are:
- Reproductive system effects
- Problems with the blood
- Brain and nervous system damage
Carbofuran is highly toxic and acute exposure to this chemical could cause death. Once exposure to carbofuran decreases, the effects of acute toxicity are usually reversible.
📉 Is Carbofuran In Tap Water Regulated?
Carbofuran in drinking water is currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which produces legal limitations for all contaminants with known health effects in public drinking water supplies.
Since we know that exposure to carbofuran residues has toxic potential, this chemical is one of the contaminants that water utilities must test for and reduce to safe concentrations according to EPA guidelines.
The EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for carbofuran is 40 PPB (parts per billion), meaning that public water suppliers must legally reduce carbofuran levels to below this concentration to make their water legally safe to drink.
This EPA legal limit was established in 1991 and was based on an animal study in the 1980s. Organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) argue that this legal limit is too lenient and outdated based on the more recent studies into the effects of this chemical on the brain and nervous system.
The EWG has proposed its own Health Guideline of 0.7 PPB for carbofuran in tap water – the true maximum amount that the organization deems to be safe in water. This Guideline isn’t legally enforceable, however, so water utilities don’t have to take it into consideration when treating their water.
🧪 How To Test For Carobfuran In Tap Water
Carbofuran is a specific pesticide, so there aren’t many tests that exist solely to test for this chemical.
However, you might find a laboratory test for pesticides, which detects carbofuran amongst similar chemicals.
To test for carbofuran with a laboratory test, follow these steps:
- Buy a test from a certified laboratory and wait for it to be delivered to your home.
- Follow the test instructions take water samples from your faucet, then send them back to the laboratory for analysis.
- Wait for your results to be delivered via email. This usually takes 7-10 days.
We recommend testing your water for carbofuran if you have a private well and you’ve learned that carbofuran contamination is likely in your area, or if you have a specific reason to be concerned about this contaminant in your drinking water.
👩🏽⚕️ What To Do If You’re Concerned About Carbofuran In Your Water
If you’re concerned that carbofuran is contaminating your drinking water, here’s what you can do:
- Determine your likelihood of being exposed to carbofuran in your water. This EWG database shows which states have reported carbofuran in their public drinking water supplies.
- If you get your water from a municipal supplier, keep in mind that the utility should adhere to federal guidelines and reduce carbofuran to within the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level. You might think that the EPA MCL is too high, given carbofuran’s status as a highly toxic insecticide. However, if your water utility is within the legal limit for this chemical, the only thing you can do is install a water filter to reduce your carbofuran exposure in your home.
- If you have a private well and you’re concerned about carbofuran contamination, buy a test and determine whether or not you need to install a water treatment system for your water supply. If carbofuran is a known pollutant in groundwater in your area, your local authority might offer free or discounted water testing options for well owners to take advantage of.
- If you think you might have been exposed to carbofuran in your water or elsewhere in your environment, contact your doctor and discuss your concerns – especially if you’re experiencing symptoms.
- Make sure you reduce your exposure to carbofuran in all areas of your life, not just in your water.
⚠️ Other Ways You Might Be Exposed To Carbofuran
Aside from drinking carbofuran in your water, you might also be exposed to this chemical in the following ways:
- From eating contaminated foods – Depending on where your food is sourced, it might have been grown with carbofuran. Since carbofuran is easily absorbed by plant roots, it’s possible for certain foods to contain trace amounts of this chemical. Rice, corn, wheat, potatoes, and certain fruits and vegetables might all contain varying levels of carbofuran.
- From occupational exposure – If you work in an agricultural role and you handle carbofuran, you’re at risk of dermal exposure and exposure through inhalation of this chemical.
📑 Final Word: Removing Carbofuran From Water
Carbofuran is one of the most toxic pesticides used today. Consumption of this chemical in your water may cause nausea, confusion, and even death.
So, it’s unsurprising if you’re now keen to learn how to remove this chemical from your drinking water.
👨🔬 The EPA-recommended method of removing carbofuran from water at home is granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration.
Make sure to choose a GAC filter that’s tested for carbofuran removal, and has testing data that you can access online.