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Environmental Health Hazard – Agrochemical Contamination (Fatal): Colombia, S.A.


Published Date: 2016-05-25 05:31:18
Subject: PRO/EDR> Undiagnosed illness – Colombia: (CU) fatal, fungicide suspected, RFI
Archive Number: 20160525.4241004

Date: Mon 23 May 2015
Source: Fresh Plaza, La Razón report [edited]

The fire department of Cundinamarca stated that the irresponsible use of a fungicide on a potato crop, in the village of San Rafael, in the municipality of La Calera [Cundinamarca], near Bogotá, had left a tragic toll of one dead and 19 people intoxicated on Wednesday night [18 May 2016].

Captain Alvaro Farfán said 5 people had been taken to a local clinic because they had a high degree of intoxication and that one of them had died. A few hours later, the number of intoxicated people increased and the medical personnel started to experience symptoms of intoxication, so the medical facility had to be evacuated to avoid a mass poisoning and the patients were referred to other clinics in Bogotá.

The director of the Regulatory Center of Emergencies of Cundinamarca, Carlos Arturo Maria Julio said in an interview with Caracol Radio that the emergency had been generated by the misuse of the fungicide, which had not been handled following the appropriate protective measures. Authorities are uncertain as to what fungicide was used. They suspect that it was ME-8 [tetraconazole].

communicated by:

[Maps of Colombia can be seen at and – Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ

The article does not tell us precisely what symptoms the affected individuals were experiencing. I assume that these people must have been within the drift of the fungicide, as the article does not mention ingestion of the potatoes.

If the fungicide was tetraconazole it is regarded as low toxicity (category III or IV) but it is classified as likely to be carcinogenic to humans, based on the occurrence of liver tumors in male and female mice. Tetraconazole is harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin, or inhaled, and causes moderate eye irritation. However, most of the toxicities with this chemical are not as acute as this article leads us to believe.

Data indicate tetraconazole is an eye irritant but not a dermal irritant or sensitizer, so the rapidness of the death and the other illnesses reported are not indicative of exposure to tetraconazole, even with high concentration of this chemical. As emergency personnel were also affected it seems more likely this may have been a pesticide such as an organophosphate off-gassing from the clothing, resulting in secondary exposure.

Several other articles report that those using the fungicide spray were mixing dithane (mancozeb), curaxil M8 (m8 cymoxanil mancozeb), curzate (cymoxanil), and pegal (agricultural adjuvant) and that the mixture was being used without any type of protection. This resulted in contamination of the environment and led to the illness.

Mancozeb (trade name Dithane) is relatively non toxic (category IV) fungicide. It is essentially not toxic by dermal absorption and by inhalation. It is a mild irritant to the skin and may be weak sensitizer. It is commonly found in combination with , another fungicide.

Zineb is an ethylene bisdithiocarbamate (EBDCs) fungicide for crops, slightly to moderately toxic when ingested. Following a single large dose of zineb, rats and mice exhibited incoordination, hyperactivity followed by inactivity, loss of muscle tone, and loss of hair.

In spray or dust forms, the EBDCs are moderately irritating to the skin and to respiratory mucous membranes. Poisoning from this class of chemicals includes itching, scratchy throat, sneezing, coughing, inflammation of the nose or throat, and bronchitis. Early symptoms from exposure of humans to inhalation of zineb include tiredness, dizziness, and weakness. More severe symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, slurred speech, convulsions, and unconsciousness. There is no evidence of neurotoxicity, that is nerve tissue destruction or behavioral change, from the EBDCs. However, EBDCs are partially chemically broken down, or metabolized, to carbon disulfide, a neurotoxin capable of damaging nerve tissue. EBDC residues in or on foods convert readily to ETU during commercial processing or home cooking.

Zineb is a skin and eye irritant and a dermal sensitizer. Cross sensitization with maneb and mancozeb may occur. Mucous membrane irritation has also been reported in humans. Absorption of large amounts of zineb through the skin can lead to the same acute symptoms caused by inhalation exposure.

The product curzate M8 or curaxil M8, is a formulation of 8 per cent cymoxanil and 64 per cent mancozeb. Cymoxanil is an acetamide compound used as both a curative and preventative foliar fungicide. Cymoxanil has low acute toxicity, both by dermal and inhalation exposure. It is not a skin sensitizer and is category III fungicide

All in all it appears these people were spraying with several trade name chemicals that had mostly the same active ingredient. Zineb seems to have the potential to cause the problems, or some of the problems mentioned in this article. More information and more clinical features are needed. If a definitive answer is found we would appreciate an update.

Portions of this comment were extracted from

1. Agway, Inc. Material safety data sheet on zineb formulations. No date given. Chemical Division. Syracuse, NY;
2. Berg GL (ed.). Farm chemicals handbook. Willoughby, OH: Meister Publishing Co, 1986.
3. Pesticide Management and Education: An on-line pesticide information database in CENET, Cornell Cooperative Extension Network. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
4. Clayton GD, Clayton FE (eds.). Patty’s industrial hygiene and toxicology. rd edition. Vol. 2: Toxicology. NY: John Wiley and Sons, 1981.
5. Cornell University. 1988 New York State pesticide recommendations. 49th annual pest control conference. Nov. 9-11. Ithaca, NY: 1987.
6. Gosselin RE, et al. Clinical toxicology of commercial products. 5th edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1984.
7. Hallenbeck WH, Cunningham-Burns KM. Pesticides and human health. NY: Springer-Verlag, 1985.
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12. Shepard TH. Catalog of teratogenic agents. 5th edition. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
13. Thomson WT. Agricultural chemicals. Book IV. Fungicides. Fresno, CA: Thomson Publications, 1985.
14. Tucker R, Crabtree DG. Handbook of toxicity of pesticides to wildlife. USDA Fish and Wildlife Service. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, 1970.
15. Memorandum from EF Tinsworth, director, Special Review and Reregistration Division. Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Data call-in for small-scale retrospective ground-water monitoring. US Environmental Protection Agency: 1988.
16. Memorandum from E Neil Pelletier. Status of EBDC fungicide registrations. Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Science Support Branch. Benefits and Use Division (TS-768-C). Washington, DC. Photocopy (1987 (May 13)).
17. Pesticides fact book. (A-107/86-003). Washington, DC: Office of Public Affairs, 1986 (June).
18. User’s manual for the pesticide root zone model (PRZM). Release 1. Athens, GA: Environmental Research Laboratory, 1984 (Dec).
19. Wagner SL. Clinical toxicology of agricultural chemicals. Environmental Health Sciences Center. Oregon State University. NJ: Noyes Data Corporation, 1983.
20. Witt JM (ed.). Chemistry, biochemistry, and toxicology of pesticides. Proceedings of an extension service short course at Oregon State University. Eugene, OR: Pest Control Education Program, 1985.
21. Worthing CR (ed.). The pesticide manual: A world compendium. Croydon, England: The British Crop Protection Council, 1983.
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23. Meister RT (ed.). Farm chemicals handbook ’92. Willoughby, OH: Meister Publishing Company, 1992.
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25. Occupational Health Services, Inc. MSDS for Zineb. Secaucus, NJ: OHS Inc, 1991 (21 Feb).
– Mod.TG]


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