(aka, sodium monofluoroacetate, compound 1080 or 1080)
1080 is a potent metabolic poison that works by interfering with the citric acid cycle, and is used primarily to control mammalian pests, including invasive species. The existence of this chemical was first noted in the Second World War.
Sodium fluoroacetate is used as a rodenticide. Farmers and graziers use the poison to protect pastures and crops from various herbivorous mammals. It is used in New Zealand to control the Common Brushtail Possum. Other countries using 1080 in large quantities include Australia, Mexico and Israel.
World’s largest 1080 user
New Zealand, probably the most toxic travel destination in the world, is the largest user of sodium fluoroacetate anywhere. Environmentalists report that NZ government agencies are increasingly using large scale indiscriminate aerial applications to cut costs. New Zealand releases about two and a half tons of compound 1080 into its environment each year, about 90% of the global use. [Enough poison to kill the entire population of New Zealand 15 times over, if administered orally!]
Compound 1080 is the most toxic pesticide registered by the World Health Organization, WHO. It is rarely used in the U.S. because it is highly toxic and kills wildlife indiscriminately. The only manufacturer of 1080 left in the U.S., Tull Chemical Co. in Oxford, Ala., ships most of its production to New Zealand.
ACUTE TOXICITY DATA – Lethal dose (LD) data:
Human data: The probable oral lethal dose has been reported to be 50 mg [Deichmann and Gerarde 1969]. Note. An oral dose of 50 mg is equivalent to a person being exposed to about 30 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.
Common Brushtail Possum. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
European settlers aiming to establish a fur industry introduced the Common Brushtail to New Zealand, where they are now regarded as undesirable. The worst ecological damage to NZ environment, however, is caused by human activities such as agriculture, forestry, mining and tourism.
Mechanism of action
Fluoroacetate disrupts the citric acid cycle (also known as the Krebs cycle) by combining with coenzyme A to form fluoroacetyl CoA, this is then substituted for acetyl CoA in the citric acid cycle and reacts with citrate synthase to produce fluorocitrate. A metabolite of fluorocitrate binds very tightly to aconitase, thereby halting the citric acid cycle. This results in an accumulation of citrate in the blood which deprives cells of energy.
In humans the symptoms of poisoning normally appear between 30 minutes and three hours after exposure. Initial symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain; sweating, confusion and agitation follow. In significant poisoning cardiac abnormalities including tachycardia or bradycardia, hypotension and ECG changes develop. Neurological effects include muscle twitching and seizures; Consciousness becomes progressively impaired after a few hours leading to coma. Death is generally due to Ventricular arrhythmias, progressive hypotension unresponsive to treatment, and secondary lung infections.
Because of the biochemical interference in the TCA or Krebs Cycle, sodium fluoroacetate poisoning is very difficult to treat, as once clinical symptoms are shown, the Krebs Cycle has shut down. There is no known effective antidote.