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Physical-Chemical Parameters

A Review Of Physical-Chemical Parameters Related To The Soil And Groundwater Fate Of Selected Pesticides Used In New York State


L.P. Wagenet
Research Support Specialist
Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
Cornell University

A.T. Lemley
Assistant Professor
Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
Cornell University

R.J. Wagenet
Associate Professor
Department of Agronomy
Cornell University

Chemicals Studied:


The increasing use of organic chemicals in New York State agriculture has become an issue of concern among many researchers. Reviewing the literature to obtain data on the physical nature of these pesticides as well as their environmental fate can be a tedious and time-consuming task. It is the purpose of this document to assemble such information into an outline which can quickly enlighten the researcher as to the physical parameters of the chemical,its degradation, transformation and adsorption in soil. A bibliography is included for those wishing to make a more detailed evaluation of the research.

This review contains information on twenty-three toxic chemicals used in New York state. The study examines pesticides of wide application and high toxicity, most of which are on the restricted use list for the state of New York. In attempting to derive the total quantity of each pesticide used in the state, it became obvious that no such accurate data exists;the best estimates of various county agents and agricultural researchers around the state were used in defining the limits of the study. A computer literature search of Chemistry Abstracts , Biological abstracts , and the National Technical Information Service was commissioned to obtain references concerning environmental fate of the particular chemicals in question. From this search the bulk of information in the document was obtained. Additionally, physical data on each pesticide was retrieved via "Chem-News", a program within the Scamp Information Network, based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Bill Coons, public services Librarian, Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University, who was of invaluable assistance in the literature search, and William G. Smith,Extension Associate, and Donald Specker, Research Aide, Department of Entomology,Cornell University, both of whom helped with computer retrieval of data.Technical information for each pesticide was obtained from Analytical Reference Standards and Supplemental Data for Pesticides and Other Organic Compounds,EPA Publication No. 600/2-81-011, USEPA, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27711;Farm Chemicals Handbook, 1984, Meister Publishing Co., Willoughby, Ohio,44094; and, N.Y. State Pesticide Recommendations, 1984, Cornell University,Ithaca, N.Y. 14850.


It has become evident during the preparation of this document that there is substantial variation in the breadth and depth of scientific information concerning behavior in soil-water systems of the twenty-three pesticides selected for this study. This somewhat distressing observation indicates that at least a few pesticides are used on soils in New York with very little information available on their soil-water fate. In particular, we found almost no reports in the scientific literature on soil adsorption or degradation mechanisms of demeton, dinoseb, methamidophos, methomyl, and mevinphos.Incomplete information exists on azinphos methyl, oxamyl and permethrin with conflicting reports on adsorption and mobility for these chemicals.Substantial information exists on the remaining pesticides included in thisstudy, among them aldicarb, atrazine, carbofuran and paraquat. It is interesting to note that the information developed on well-studied pesticides has generally resulted from research efforts accomplished after the chemical has been recognized as an environmental contaminant and a potential human health hazard. It is an unfortunate fact of pesticide research in soil-water systems that most research efforts are retrospective rather than prospective with funds provided for research studies only after the chemical has become an environmental problem. It appears that, as an alternative, we should focus our research efforts on development of a prospective research program that concerns the relatively unstudied chemicals listed above, or upon the intensively studied ones for which conflicting data exists (such as the persistence of dieldrin, lindane and parathion). A final comment should be made concerning the availability of data on pesticide use within New York state. During the course of our study we found that although substantial reporting of pesticide usage occurs, there is no continuing effort at the State level to condense and summarize these reports into a comprehensive accounting of usage. No one, including chemical companies, farmers, extension agents,health departments, or state regulatory agencies knows the identity or quantity of all chemicals being applied in the state. Given this disarray in the system, we, along with those acknowledged in the introduction, made our best guesses of the chemicals to be included in this study and may have overlooked a few of importance.