Is BHC non-biodegradable? 

This article will shed academic and scientific light on the non-biodegradability of BHC. Other covered topics would include:

  • What is the biodegradability status of BHC?
  • What are the health implications of BHC?
  • What is the relation between BHC and DDT?
  • What are the environmental effects of BHC?
  • What are the green alternatives to BHC?
  • FAQs

Is BHC non-biodegradable?

BHC expands to benzene hexachloride. It is a non-biodegradable pollutant which is used as a pesticide and also for pharmaceutical purposes. The pharmaceutical purposes include the treatment of scabies, head lice, and body lice. 

There are health implications associated with the use of BHC that include neurological problems, reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and even cancer. 

The use of BHC is also linked to disrupting the natural order (flora and fauna) of soil and groundwater. When BHC is used as a pesticide, it will change the chemistry and biology of the soil and groundwater ecosystems. As a result, the associated life forms will also be impacted. 

Owing to the complications caused by BHC, it is banned in several states and countries and processes are underway for a complete ban on BHC. Consumers are advised to go for greener alternatives such as biopesticides that are not as hazardous as conventional pesticides like BHC or DDT. 

What is the biodegradability status of BHC? (3 common names for BHC)

The biodegradability status of BHC can be better understood by probing into a concise meaning and introduction to what BHC is. 

Let us start off with the full form. BHC expands to Benzene Hexachloride. It is also called Lindane. Some other names of BHC are:

  • Lindane 
  • Gammaxene 
  • Gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane

As regards the use of BHC, its two most common uses are to be used in pesticides and in pharmaceuticals for the removal of head and body lice. It is also used for the treatment of scabies. 

As can be guessed, Benzene Hexachloride is a non-biodegradable pollutant because it can not be broken down by the action of microbes. Before we move on, let us revisit the definition of biodegradation.

The basic concept on which the approach of biodegradation is edified is the breakdown of waste or materials by the action of microbes. This process is also facilitated by external factors such as aeration, temperature et cetera. 

The microbes that usually cause biodegradation include bacteria, decomposers, fungi, algae et cetera. It is generally perceived that when a substance can not be broken down by the action of microbes in 180 days, it will be termed non-biodegradable. 

Recent studies have revealed that there are two main factors that will determine if something is biodegradable or not. These are:

  • How long will that substance take to degrade in a natural setting
  • How sustainable the impact of that substance is on the environment and life

In the case of BHC, it is observed that it is non-biodegradable from both aspects. Neither it degrades in less than 180 days nor it has any good impact on the environment and life, in general. 

That is the primary reason why BHC is banned in many countries like India while in the remaining states, the process is underway. 

What are the health implications associated with BHC?

It has been established in the last section that BHC is used in pharmaceuticals for the treatment of head and body lice and also scabies. 

However, it has been excavated, by recent research endeavours, that there are many health impacts of BHC and that is why its use must not be promoted and supported. 

Lindane or BHC is found to be linked with medical complications that include:

  • Neurotoxicity
  • Neurological disorders
  • Seizures
  • Anaemia
  • Ataxia
  • CNS dysfunctions
  • Compromised immunity
  • Effects on liver
  • Reproductive complications

There has been a pool of contemporary and conventional research that advocates against the use of Lindane because of the mentioned side effects and health complications. 

Therefore, consumers are advised to either go for the alternatives or avoid the use of Lindane for medicinal purposes even if it is endorsed by doctors. 

This is not a personal stance. The above statements are also backed up by the Centre of Disease and Prevention board of the US. And it is not just all. 

Some researchers have even linked the use of Lindane with cancer and that is the primary reason why it is banned in some the states such as California. However, a complete ban is still unachieved. 

Owing to the degradative effects of Lindane, the WHO (World Health Organisation) moved the status of BHC from ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to ‘known to cause cancer’ which is an A1 category. This happened in 2015. 

What is the relation between BHC and DDT?

Many people are intrigued about the relationship between BHC and DDT and have even drawn various conclusions. However, there is no such relation but an uncanny resemblance of cases. Let us review the case of DDT to further prove our stance. 

DDT expands to Dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane which was introduced somewhere in the 1940s as an effective pesticide and insecticide. It was cheap and effective. Soon, its popularity rose to such an extent that it became a necessity for every household. It was used extensively by people of all fields. 

However, it was until the 1970s that the degradative effects of DDT were found. DDT was proved to be a persistent organic pollutant that had the capacity to bioaccumulate. The effects of DDT were severe and exacerbated. 

DDT also led to many medical complications not only in humans but also in animals as well. DDT was linked with eggshell thinning and reproductive complications. This resulted in the loss of life. 

The medical complications of DDT were very similar to that of BHC and included conditions such as seizures, trauma, neurological problems, birth defects, infertility, and neurotoxicity– to name a few.  

The case of BHC is similar to that of DDT because BHC is also used as a pesticide and similar health complications have been excavated. Although DDT was completely banned in the 1970s, the ban on BHC is still underway. 

Many concerned consumers and even producers have demanded that agencies such as WHO and FDA completely ban the production and use of BHC because it is categorised as a toxic, hazardous, and non-biodegradable pollutant. 

What are the environmental complications caused by BHC?

A lot can be said about the environmental complications caused by the production and use of BHC. For example, BHC is a non-biodegradable pollutant. 

One main effect of BHC that will be on the environment is that BHC, like DDT, will remain in the environmental systems for a longer period of time and will harm the organisms. 

Since it can not be degraded by microbes, it will persist in the environment in many forms and in different life forms where it will manifest medical and neurological anomalies that have been given a preview in the previous sections. 

The problems that can be caused by the persistence and accumulation of BHC include neurological problems, reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and even cancer. 

The use of BHC is also linked to disrupting the natural order (flora and fauna) of soil and groundwater. When BHC is used as a pesticide, it will change the chemistry and biology of the soil and groundwater ecosystems. As a result, the associated life forms will also be impacted. 

One of the main issues that are associated with pesticides such as BHC or DDT is that these pesticides may also target non-target organisms. Non-target organisms such as humans or plants are those recipients who were never intended to be affected by the impacts of pesticides. 

Also, there are environmental anomalies linked with the use of pesticides such as BHC. These anomalies include effects such as the greenhouse effect and eutrophication. 

What are the greener alternatives of BHC?

After we have built a stance on the number of ways BHC is harmful and must be replaced, let us also discuss what are the greener alternatives of BHC as pesticides. 

When it comes to green pesticides, the stood-out candidate is biopesticides. These pesticides are not made from chemicals but are rather derived from natural sources such as plants, bacteria, or even minerals. Based on the source, there are three main types of biopesticides:

  • Biochemical pesticides
  • Microbial pesticides
  • Plant-incorporated Protectants 

There are a number of advantages that are offered by biopesticides over conventional pesticides. These include:

  • Biopesticides usually do not target non-target organisms (plants, animals, and humans) and therefore are regarded as a safer option
  • You would need a lesser quantity of biopesticides as compared to conventional pesticides
  • Biopesticides are less toxic than conventional pesticides
  • Since biopesticides are sourced from natural sources, they could be categorised as eco-friendly and even sustainable
  • Biopesticides will not bioaccumulate and there are few health implications associated with the use of biopesticides

Conclusion

It is concluded that BHC expands to benzene hexachloride. It is a non-biodegradable pollutant which is used as a pesticide and also for pharmaceutical purposes. The pharmaceutical purposes include the treatment of scabies, head lice, and body lice. 

There are health implications associated with the use of BHC that include neurological problems, reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and even cancer. 

The use of BHC is also linked to disrupting the natural order (flora and fauna) of soil and groundwater. When BHC is used as a pesticide, it will change the chemistry and biology of the soil and groundwater ecosystems. As a result, the associated life forms will also be impacted. 

Owing to the complications caused by BHC, it is banned in several states and countries and processes are underway for a complete ban on BHC. Consumers are advised to go for greener alternatives such as biopesticides that are not as hazardous as conventional pesticides like BHC or DDT. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is BHC non-biodegradable?

Is BHC banned?

Yes, BHC is banned in several countries and states like India and California. Consumers have urged the FDA for a complete ban on BHC. 

Does BHC cause cancer?

Yes, recent research has shown a link between the use of BHC and cancer. Other impacts include neurotoxicity, reproductive complications, anaemia et cetera. 

What are the other names for BHC?

BHC is also called Lindane or Gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane. 

References

  • Byrne, Sue. (October 5, 2015). Lindane: The Dangerous Head Lice Treatment That Shouldn’t Be Sold. Retrieved from: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/insectrepellent/lindane-is-a-dangerous-head-lice-treatment-that-shouldnt-be-sold
  • Solomon, L. M., Fahrner, L., & West, D. P. (1977). Gamma benzene hexachloride toxicity: a review. Archives of Dermatology, 113(3), 353-357.
  • MacRae, I. C., Raghu, K., & Castro, T. F. (1967). Persistence and biodegradation of four common isomers of benzene hexachloride in submerged soils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 15(5), 911-914.

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