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Piperonyl Butoxide

Lead Editor


Piperonyl butoxide is a synthetic insecticide synergist that was developed in 1947. It is combined with other pesticides such as pyrethrins, pyrethroids, rotenone, and carbamates to enhance their effectiveness. It does not have insecticidal qualities on its own (#NPTN). Piperonyl butoxide mixtures are often used on food crops and livestock. It is also found in a wide range of household insecticides including sprays and lice treatment shampoos.

Chemical Description

Piperonyl butoxide is an oily, colorless, or yellow to brown liquid. It boils at 180°C and has a low solubility in water (#NIOSH). In soil, piperonyl butoxide has a half-life of 73 days (#EPA).

Because it is always combined with various insecticides, piperonyl butoxide is available in many forms, including aerosols, liquids, ready-to-use solutions, dusts, wettable powders, pressurized gases, pressurized liquids, dilutable concentrates, shampoos, towelettes, and water-based concentrates (#EPA).


Combined with other pesticides, products with piperonyl butoxide are often used to target mosquitoes, ants, worms, beetles, mites, flies, gnats, spiders, weevils, caterpillars, grubs, moths, ticks, lice, wasps, aphids, midges, and fish (such as invasive fish species) (#EPA).

Piperonyl butoxide is sometimes used in conjunction with agricultural pesticides. It can also be found in animal ear tags for livestock, pest strips, and in some veterinary pesticide products (#NPTN).

Piperonyl butoxide may be found in residential products for use in gardens, lawns, and ornamental plants. For indoor settings, there are sprays, dusts, and foggers. Some products are also designed for direct use on human clothing, bedding, and mattresses (#NPTN). Piperonyl butoxide is also combined with pyrethrins in human medications to treat scabies and lice infestations (#Medline).

Human Health Effects

Piperonyl butoxide targets the liver, but does not disrupt the metabolism of other chemicals as it does in insects. It generally has a low toxicity in humans through any route of exposure. The EPA classifies piperonyl butoxide as a group C carcinogen, a possible human carcinogen (#EPA).

People can be exposed to piperonyl butoxide by ingestion or inhalation. Ingesting piperonyl butoxide may cause vomiting and diarrhea (#PANNA). Dermal tests on rats indicate that the compound may cause redness and swelling (#NPTN).

Environmental Health Effects

Piperonyl butoxide inhibits the ability of insects to metabolize certain insecticides. This allows products containing piperonyl butoxide to be equally effective with lower concentrations of insecticides (#NPTN). The EPA determined that piperonyl butoxide degrades somewhat rapidly in the environment, and therefore has a moderately low chance of contaminating water sources (#EPA).

In mammals, piperonyl butoxide is only slightly toxic. The LD50 of rats is 4570 mg/kg. It is moderately toxic to fish, but it is highly toxic to other aquatic organisms and amphibians. The LC50 is 1.9 ppm in rainbow trout, 0.51 ppm in waterflea, and 0.21 ppm in Western chorus frog tadpoles (#EPA). It has a low toxicity in birds (#NPTN).


Piperonyl butoxide is currently used in roughly 1500 registered products. The regulation of piperonyl butoxide products is largely dependent on the other active ingredients.

Precautionary Notes

Use piperonyl butoxide products very carefully around water sources to avoid contamination. Piperonyl butoxide is always mixed with other pesticides. Understand the risks associated with all other active ingredients.


Environmental Protection Agency. Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Piperonyl Butoxide. (June 2006). [Accessed 7-11-10].

Medline Plus. Pyrethrin and Piperonyl Butoxide. (September 2008) [Accessed 7-11-10].

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Piperonyl Butoxide. [Accessed 7-11-10].

National Library of Medicine: Toxicology Data Network. Piperonyl Butoxide. [Accessed 7-11-10].

National Pesticide Telecommunications Network. Piperonyl Butoxide. (November 2000). [Accessed 7-11-10].

Pesticide Action Network North America. Piperonyl Butoxide. [Accessed 7-11-10].

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