Assessment of cumulative risks: ANSES contributes to the development of methods for plant protection products

The assessment of the cumulative risks of chemicals is currently one of the major challenges in the understanding and management of risks. With regard to pesticides and their residues, assessment methods are currently under development and tend toward the grouping together of substances with effects on the same organs and/or those that share mechanisms of action. Within this perspective, ANSES, in partnership with the Dutch RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) and Italian ICPS (International Centre for Pesticides and Health Risk Prevention), has answered a call for tenders by the European Food Safety Authority. The results obtained will contribute to defining groups of substances to integrate into an assessment of cumulative risks.

The assessment of the cumulative risks of chemicals represents one of the major challenges in the understanding and management of risks, with regard to scientific implications and society's expectations.

The regulations regarding the marketing of plant protection products(1) and the maximum residue limits for pesticides(2) specify that the cumulative effects and/or synergistic effects of pesticides should be taken into account in the assessment of food risks when the methods used allow it.  Since 2007, the development of these methods has seen progress and their implementation will be based on the identification of the groups of active plant protection substances having an effect on the same organs and/or with the same mechanisms of action.  These substances can therefore be included in an assessment of cumulative risks. 

Europe-wide studies

In order to develop these new assessment methods, in 2009 EFSA asked the Danish Technical University (DTU) to conduct a study establishing a scientific status report with regard to the combined effects of chemicals in food.  The report issued by the DTU in January 2012 shows that cumulative risk assessment methods, initially developed for mixtures of substances with similar effects, may also be suitable for combinations of substances with diverse effects on a single target organ. 

Following on from this preliminary study, EFSA launched a call for tenders in July 2012 in order to identify from among all the plant protection substances approved at EU level, those with effects on the liver, the nervous system or on reproduction and development. 

A consortium made up of the Dutch RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), Italy's ICPS (International Centre for Pesticides and Health Risk Prevention) and ANSES won the call for tenders.  

The Agency, as consortium coordinator, is handling the study of the effects on reproduction and development.  The effects on the liver and the nervous system are being studied by the ICPS and RIVM respectively. The report based on this work by the Agency and its partners was recently published on the EFSA website.  

Thanks to this work by ANSES and its partners, a substance-by-substance compilation of all the observed effects, both those specific to each substance and those which are side-effects of systemic toxicity (indirect toxicity), has been established.  This exhaustive data base will now enable EFSA to establish the groups of substances for a cumulative assessment. 

(1) Regulation (EC) no. 1107/2009

(2) Regulation (EC) no. 396/2005