Toxaphene has been detected in the atmosphere, soils, surface waters and sediments, rainwater, aquatic organisms, and foodstuffs. Historically, toxaphene has been released to the environment mainly as a result of its use as an agricultural insecticide.
Current sources of toxaphene in the environment include atmospheric emissions from countries currently producing or using toxaphene and continued releases from previously contaminated soils, waters and waste lands.
Toxaphene is highly insoluble in water and in surface waters, amounts that are not volatilized to the atmosphere, will be sorbed to sediments or suspended particulates, which are ultimately deposited in sediments. From a model river, one meter deep, with a flow rate of one meter/second and a wind velocity of 3 meters/second, a halflife of 6 hours has been estimated for the vaporization of toxaphene. Taking this model into consideration, the atmosphere is the most important environmental medium for transport of the toxaphene mixture. The chemical properties of toxaphene (low water solubility, high stability, and semivolatility) favour its long range transport, and toxaphene has been detected in arctic air. Atmospheric toxaphene may be transported back to soil and water surfaces by wet and dry deposition processes.Toxaphene released to soils will persist for long periods of time. The high soil sorption coefficient values for toxaphene (log Koc2.475.00) suggest that the mixture should be strongly sorbed to soil particulates and, therefore, should be relatively immobile to leaching and inhibited from volatilizing from subsurface soils but toxaphene may be able to move into groundwater with the carrier hydrocarbon solvent (e.g., xylene). The halflife of toxaphene in soil ranges from 100 days up to 14 years, depending on the soil type and climate.