Some aspects of the analytical chemistry of malathion

  • Ishtiaq A. Qazi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A thorough investigation of the recommended colorimetric method for the determination of malathion (an organophosphorus pesticide) has led to the identification of the major cause of all the problems with which the method suffers. The method, which involves the extraction of the copper (II) complex or the hydrolysis product of malathion from aqueous solution into immiscible organic solvents, has many drawbacks. For example, the colour of the organic extract fades very quickly and a slight increase in the contact time of the hydrolysis product and the copper reagent within the aqueous solution, results in a decrease in the ab-solute absorbance. Also, the presence of any reducing agents can be a significant source of error. In the present work, it has been shown that the basic cause of all these problems is the ability of copper (II) ion to be reduced to copper (I) ion. It has further been shown that these problems can be resolved by re-placing copper (II) by bismuth (III). This has led to the development of a modified colorimetric method for the determination. of malathion, which has distinct advantages over all other existing methods in terms of reagents required, ease in application, avoidance of interferences and stability of colour for extended periods of time. The modified colorimetric method described above has been further improved by making use of a ligand exchange reaction involving dithizone. The resulting final organic extract in this case is bright orange in colour, the absorbance of which can be measured even with simple photometers. The usefulness of the modified colorimetric method has been demonstrated by determining malathion in technical products, and in aqueous solution containing the compound down to sub ppm levels. The scope and applicability of atomic absorption spectrophotometry has been extended by demonstrating for the first time that the technique can be used for the indirect determination of malathion. Almost all of the work described above has been accepted for publication by international journals and considerable interest in the work has been shown by chemists working in the field of pesticide analysis and research.
Date of Award1980
Original languageEnglish


  • analytical chemistry
  • malathion
  • colorimetric determination
  • water analysis
  • atomic absorption
  • spectrophotmetry

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