The Full Wiki

Permethrin: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CAS number 52645-53-1 Yes check.svgY
ATC code P03AC04,QP53AC04
Molecular formula C21H20Cl2O3
Molar mass 391.28 g/mol
Appearance colourless crystals
Density 1.19 g/cm³, solid
Melting point

34 °C, 307 K, 93 °F

Boiling point

200 °C, 473 K, 392 °F

Solubility in water Insoluble (5.5 x 10-3 ppm)
MSDS External MSDS
Main hazards Irritating to skin and eyes,
damaging to lungs
Related compounds
Related pyrethroids Bifenthrin
 Yes check.svgY (what is this?)  (verify)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical, widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. It belongs to the family of synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids and functions as a neurotoxin, affecting neuron membranes by prolonging sodium channel activation. It is not known to rapidly harm most mammals or birds, but is highly toxic to cats.[1][2] It generally has a low mammalian toxicity and is poorly absorbed by skin. Permethrin has recently been linked to poisoning dogs as a flea/tick repellent.[citation needed]



Permethrin is used:

  • as an insecticide:
    • in agriculture, to protect crops
    • in agriculture, to kill livestock parasites
    • for industrial/domestic insect control
  • as an insect repellent or insect screen
    • in timber treatment
    • as a personal protective measure (cloth impregnant notably used for US military uniforms and mosquito nets)
    • in pet collars.

Agriculture and forestry

In agriculture, permethrin is mainly used on cotton, wheat, maize, and alfalfa crops, and is also used to kill parasites on chickens and other poultry. It is also extensively used in Europe as a timber treatment against wood boring beetle (woodworm). Its use is controversial since, as a broad-spectrum chemical, it kills indiscriminately; as well as the intended pests, it can harm beneficial insects including honey bees, aquatic life,[3] and small mammals such as mice.

Personal Insect control

Permethrin is toxic to cats and many cats die after being given flea treatments intended for dogs, or by contact with dogs who have recently been treated with permethrin.[4]

Permethrin is also used in healthcare, to eradicate parasites such as head lice and mites responsible for scabies, and in industrial and domestic settings to control pests such as ants and termites. However, the British National Formulary states that permethrin has low efficiency in eradicating head lice.

Permethrin kills ticks on contact with treated clothing. A method of reducing deer tick populations in terms of rodent vectors involves utilizing biodegradable cardboard tubes stuffed with permethrin treated cotton. Mice collect the cotton for lining their nests. Permethrin on the cotton instantly kills any immature ticks that are feeding on the mice. It is important to put the tubes where mice will find them, such as in dense, dark brush, or at the base of a log; mice are unlikely to gather cotton from an open lawn. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, permethrin "has low mammalian toxicity, is poorly absorbed through the skin and is rapidly inactivated by the body. Skin reactions have been uncommon."[5] Permethrin is also used on humans for lice or scabies; the common prescription is Permethrin with 5% concentration for scabies, and OTC (over the counter) treatment for head lice/crabs is usually permethrin with 1% concentration.

Permethrin is used in tropical areas to prevent mosquito-borne disease such as dengue fever and malaria. Mosquito nets used to cover beds may be treated with a solution of permethrin. This increases the effectiveness of the bed net by killing parasitic insects before they are able to find gaps or holes in the net. Malaria kills 1-3 million people per year. Military personnel training in malaria-endemic areas may be instructed to treat their uniforms with permethrin as well. An application should last several washes.


Permethrin has four stereoisomers (two enantiomeric pairs), arising from the two stereocentres in the cyclopropane ring. The trans enantiomeric pair is known as transpermethrin.

Toxicology and safety

Permethrin acts as neurotoxin, slowing down the nervous system through binding to sodium channels. This action is negatively correlated to temperature, thus generally showing more acute effects on cold-blooded animals (insects, fish, frogs...) over warm-blooded animals (mammals and birds):

  • permethrin is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic life in general so extreme care must be taken when using products containing permethrin near water sources
  • permethrin is also highly toxic to cats and flea and tick repellent formulas intended and labeled for (the more resistant) dogs may contain permethrin and cause feline permethrin toxicosis in cats [6]
  • very high doses will have tangible neurotoxic effects on mammals and birds, including human beings.

Permethrin does not present any notable genotoxicity or immunotoxicity in humans and farm animals.

Permethrin is classified by the US EPA a likely human carcinogen, based on reproducible studies in which mice fed permethrin developed liver and lung tumors.[7] Carcinogenic action in nasal mucosal cells for inhalation exposure is suspected due to observed genotoxicity in human tissue samples, and in rat livers the evidence of increased preneoplastic lesions lends concern over oral exposure.[8][9]

Recent studies have linked permethrin exposure to Parkinson's disease, including very small (per kg.) exposures[10][11]: « Our studies have documented low-dose effects of permethrin, doses below one-one thousandth of a lethal dose for a mouse, with effects on those brain pathways involved in Parkinson's Disease [...] We have found effects consistent with a pre-parkinsonsian condition, but not yet full-blown parkinsonism ».

Due to high toxicity for aquatic life, permethrin and permethrin-contaminated water should be properly disposed of. Degradation is quick and should the chemical be trashed far from any aquatic life, the negative effects would be minimized. Ideally, in a non-industrial context, the contaminant can be set in the light to induce photodegradation. Contaminated water set in direct sunlight exposure will be cleared of the permethrin and any known pollutant subproducts after a few hours.

Recently, in South Africa, residues of permethrin were found in breast milk, together with DDT, in an area that experienced DDT treatment for malaria control, as well as the use of pyrethroids in small-scale agriculture.[12]

The use of the substance has been restricted by the US government, although such restriction is outdated now [13]

Human exposure

Excessive exposure to permethrin can cause nausea, headache, muscle weakness, salivation, shortness of breath and seizures. Worker exposure to the chemical can be monitored by measurement of the urinary metabolites, while severe overdosage may be confirmed by quantitation of permethrin in serum or plasma.[14]

See also


  2. ^ Franny Syufy. "Cat Flea Control Products Warning". 
  3. ^ R. H. Ian (1989). "Aquatic organisms and pyrethroids". Pesticide Science 27 (4): 429–457. doi:10.1002/ps.2780270408. 
  4. ^ Linnett, PJ (2008). "Permethrin toxicosis in cats". Australian Veterinary Journal 86 (1-2): 32–35. doi:10.1111/j.1751-0813.2007.00198.x. PMID 18271821. 
  5. ^ Kirby C. Stafford III (February 1999). "Tick Bite Prevention". Connecticut Department of Public Health. 
  6. ^ [ BBC News report "Cats 'killed by flea treatment'"
  7. ^ Permethrin Facts, US EPA, June 2006.
  8. ^ M. Tisch, P. Schmezer, M. Faulde, A. Groh and H. Maier (2002). "Genotoxicity studies on permethrin, DEET and diazinon in primary human nasal mucosal cells". European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology 259 (3): 150–153. doi:10.1007/s004050100406. 
  9. ^ K. Hakoi, R. Cabral, T. Hoshiya, R. Hasegawa, T. Shirai and N. Ito (1992). "Analysis of carcinogenic activity of some pesticides in a medium-term liver bioassay in the rat". Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis, and Mutagenesis 12 (6): 269–276. doi:10.1002/tcm.1770120605. 
  10. ^ [1]BBC News, March 2006.
  11. ^ [2]Virginia Tech, March 2003.
  12. ^ Bouwman, H; Sereda, B; Meinhardt, HM (2006). "Simultaneous presence of DDT and pyrethroid residues in human breast milk from a malaria endemic area in South Africa". Environmental Pollution 144 (3): 902–917. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2006.02.002. PMID 16564119. 
  13. ^ Environmental Protection Agency. "Restricted Use Products (RUP) Report: Six Month Summary List". Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  14. ^ R. Baselt, Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, 8th edition, Biomedical Publications, Foster City, CA, 2008, pp. 1215-1216.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address