An inexpensive and rapid bioassay using adult red flour beetles was developed for use in assessing the decontamination of environments containing organophosphates and related chemicals. A decontamination protocol was developed which demonstrated that 2 to 3 applications of 5% bleach solution were required to obtain nearly complete decontamination of malathion. The bioassay was also used to screen common household cleaners as potential decontaminating agents, but only 5% bleach was effective at improving survival of insects on steel plates treated with 25% malathion. A toxic degradation product (malaoxon) was detected using gas chromatography/ mass spectrophotometry; this toxin affected the decontamination efficacy and resulted in continued toxicity to the beetles until subsequent decontaminations. The bioassay provides evidence to support the use of red flour beetles as a sensitive, less expensive method for determining safety levels of environments contaminated with malathion and other toxins, and may have application in the study of chemical warfare agents.


Master of Public Health
JVIC-Center for Biological and Life Sciences

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Army Medical Department Journal