Diethylphosphate, (DEP) indicates exposure to an organophosphate insecticide. Approximately 340 million kilograms of pesticide active ingredient is used agriculturally in the United States annually, and 85% of U.S. households store at least one pesticide for home use. These insecticides kill insects (and mammals such as humans) by the inhibition of the enzyme acetyl-cholinesterase and other enzymes in which serine is part of the active site such as dipeptidyl peptidase IV. When acetylcholine cannot be broken down, overstimulation can lead to constant nerve transmission or overstimulation of neurons or muscles, resulting in excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, vomiting, tremors, muscle paralysis, and even death.
High exposure levels have been associated with attention deficit, memory impairment and pervasive developmental disorders. Exposure has also been linked to violent behavior, depression, suicide and may have played a role in the onset of Gulf War syndrome.
If levels are high, toxicity can be measured by decreased cholinesterase or pseudocholinesterase activity in plasma.
Acute toxicity is treated with atropine and /or pralidoxime. DEP is a major metabolite of the following pesticides: chlorethoxyphos, chlorpyriphos, coumaphos, diazinon, disulfoton, ethion, parathion, and phorate.
Organophosphate exposure can be reduced by eating organic foods, avoiding using pesticides in house or garden, avoiding residence near agricultural areas or golf courses, and staying indoors if insecticides are being sprayed. Lice shampoo, pet flea collars, and flea spray are also major sources of organophosphates. Remove sources of exposure if possible. Elimination of organophosphates can be accelerated by sauna treatment.
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