Toxaphene is a complex organochlorine mixture of at least 670 polychlorinated bicyclic terpenes consisting predominantly of polychlorinated camphenes (PCCs) with a wide range of molecular weights.
Technical grade toxaphene is made from technical grade camphene reacted with chlorine gas using ultraviolet radiation and catalysts. Toxaphenelike mixtures of PCC congeners may also be released to the environment as unintentional byproducts from manufacturing processes involving chlorination, such as those used for paper and pulp. There are no known natural sources of the mixture.
It was first produced commercially in 1947, by Hercules Powder Company, after 19 years of research and development. Found to be less toxic to bees than arsenical insecticides.
It was largely used as a nonsystemic stomach and contact insecticide on cotton, corn, fruit, vegetables, and small grains and to control soybean pest. Toxaphene was also used to control livestock ectoparasites such as lice, flies, ticks, mange, and scab mites. Increased use occurred in the late 1960s to early 70s when it replaced DDT in formulations combined with methyl parathion. Toxaphene was at one time the most heavily manufactured pesticide in the United States with a maximum production volume of 23,000 tons in 1973. Through the early 1970s toxaphene or mixtures of toxaphene with rotenone were used widely in lakes and streams by fish and game agencies to eliminate biologic communities that were considered undesirable for sport fishing.