History of the Use and Epidemiology of Organophosphorus Poisoning

  • Kambiz SoltaninejadEmail author
  • Shahin Shadnia


Organophosphorus (OP) compounds are organic derivatives of phosphorus that have largely been used as pesticides and nerve agents. Tetraethylpyrophosphate was synthesized in 1854 as the first OP cholinesterase inhibitor. During 1934–1944, Gerhard Schrader, a German chemist at I. G. Farben industries and his coworkers synthesized about 2,000 OP compounds, including parathion as a pesticide and tabun, sarin, and soman as chemical warfare nerve agents. Although the nerve agents had been produced in Germany, they were not applied during World War II (WWII). At the end of WWII, the chemistry of OP compounds developed rapidly. The main use of nerve agents has been reported during the Iran–Iraq war (1980–1988). The Iraqi army used tabun and sarin against the Iranian troops (Majnoon Island) and civilians in Halabjah. In the 1990s, OP nerve agents have gained prominence as weapons of mass destruction and chemical terrorism. The use of sarin in chemical terroristic attacks has been reported during 1994–1995 in Matsumoto and Tokyo subway lines, Japan.

Today, a wide range of OPs with a variety of biological properties are available for agricultural and public health usages including insecticides, nematocides, acaricides, and fungicides. As a result of the widespread use of OPs, OP poisoning is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, especially in developing countries. OP poisoning shows demographic, seasonal, and regional variations. However, the pattern of OP poisoning is different in developed and developing countries. In this chapter, we reviewed the history of the use and epidemiology of OP poisonings.


Methyl phosphor chloride Triethylphosphate (TEP) Tetraethylpyrophosphate (TEPP) Parathion Tabun Phosphorofluoridates Diethyl- Dimethyl- Sarin Soman GA GB GD GF VX VR VE VG Di-isopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) Octamethylpyrophosphortetramide (OMPA) Paraxon Malathion Demeton Mercaptophos Dichlorvos Trichlorfon Azinphosmethyl Dieldrin Heptachlor DDT Amiton Iran–Iraq war Halabjah Nerve agents Majnoon Island Fao Peninsula Matsumoto Aum Shinrikyo Cult Self-poisoning Accidental poisoning Occupational poisoning Suicidal attempts World Health Organization (WHO) Environmental exposure Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Organophosphorus compounds History Epidemiology Pesticide Chemical warfare agents Poisoning Exposure Pattern of poisoning 


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© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forensic Toxicology, Legal Medicine Research CenterLegal Medicine Organization of IranTehranIran
  2. 2.Clinical Toxicology Department, Loghman Hakim Hospital Poison Center, Faculty of Medicine, and Toxicological Research Center (TRC)Shahid Beheshti University of Medical SciencesTehranIran

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