Ecological Risks of Diazinon from Agricultural Use in the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Basins, California


Jeffrey M. Giddings Springborn Laboratories, Inc., Wareham, MA.


A probabilistic risk assessment was conducted to evaluate the likelihood and ecological significance of potential toxic effects of diazinon in the Sacramento – San Joaquin system. Diazinon, an organophosphorus insecticide, is used in the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Basin as a dormant spray on almonds and other tree crops, as well as for other agricultural and urban applications. Diazinon and other pesticides have been detected in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries. Diazinon exposure was characterized based on monitoring programs conducted in 1991 – 94. Diazinon effects were characterized using laboratory toxicity data for 63 species, supplemented by results from field mesocosm and microcosm studies. The assessment addressed the possibility that reductions in invertebrate populations could lead to impacts on species of fish that feed on those invertebrates. The risk assessment concluded that fish in these rivers are not at risk from the direct effects of diazinon in the water. Invertebrates are at greater risk, especially in agriculturally dominated streams and drainage channels during January and February. Cladocerans—including Daphnia magna and Ceriodaphnia dubia, two common bioassay species—are especially sensitive to diazinon and other organophosphates and are likely to be subject to acute toxic effects in some locations at some times. Any ecological damage that may occur, however, is brief and limited to cladocerans. None of the fish species of concern depend on cladocerans as critical components of their diet. Invertebrates that are not affected by observed concentrations of diazinon (copepods, mysids, amphipods, rotifers, and insects) are preferred foods for fish in the Sacramento – San Joaquin system.