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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 20/09/2016

Contamination of air by pesticides

Recommendations and outlook for national monitoring of air contamination by pesticides

Keywords : Pesticides, Indoor air, Outdoor air (ambient)

In March 2008, as part of its first Action Plan (2006-2008), the French Observatory for Pesticide Residues (ORP)asked a group of multidisciplinary experts to produce an overview of available knowledge on the presence of pesticide residues in air and indoor environments. This work ledto the publication, in October 2010, of a report entitled “Recommendations and outlook for national monitoring of air contamination by pesticides”.

Contamination of air by pesticides is an aspect of atmospheric pollution that remains less documented than that of other environments. Thus, there are currently no national monitoring plan or regulatory values for pesticide contamination in different air environments (ambient and indoor air). In 2000, the first measurements of pesticides in air were carried out by approved French air quality monitoring associations (AASQA) to obtain an initial overview of the presence of these substances in the atmosphere in France. Measurements were then taken more intensively, to obtain national geographic coverage with the exception of the overseas territories. Nearly 100,000 measurements have now been taken. Regarding the air inside houses or public buildings, only a few studies, such as those undertaken by the French Indoor Air Quality Observatory (OQAI), have demonstrated the presence of pesticides in this environment.

In this context, in March 2008, as part of its first Action Plan (2006-2008), the ORPasked a group of multidisciplinary experts to produce an overview of available knowledge on the presence of pesticide residues in air and indoor environments. This work led to the publication, in October 2010, of a report entitled "Recommendations and outlook for national monitoring of air contamination by pesticides”.

For the purpose of this study, the term "pesticides" includes plant protection substances and products, some biocidal substances and products, as well as some antiparasitics for human and veterinary use.

The objectives were to characterise pesticide contamination of air compartments from the available data, and then to perform a critical analysis of the information collected in order to determine to what extent they could be used to characterise aerial exposure of populations to pesticides. This work was intended to lead, if appropriate, to recommendations being made to optimise monitoring of pesticides in air. Meanwhile, the group of experts have set out to assist with the development and validation of passive sampling systems for measuring pesticide concentrations in the air.

Results and recommendations

Based on the measurement campaigns carried out by the AASQA, the report entitled "Recommendations and outlook for national monitoring of air contamination by pesticides" reviews the levels of contamination in air. It gives the results on the frequency of detection and quantification of substances according to the classes of pesticides.

The resulting overview highlights the lack of harmonisation of practices and the difficulties in using the data collected, particularly with regard to characterising the aerial exposure of populations.

On the basis of these findings, several recommendations have been made to improve the methodology for national monitoring of pesticides in the air compartment. These recommendations do not seek regulatory requirement, but aim to encourage voluntary measurement of pesticides in air using a common methodology. The report nevertheless underlines the need to allow each region to adapt the common sampling plan with measures adapted to local problems.

Some areas for improvement and longer-term prospects for the development of a national methodology for observation of pesticides in air were also identified. In addition, the report reaffirmed the need to develop predictive tools for air contamination by pesticides, to improve knowledge about acute and chronic exposure of populations (in mainland France and the overseas territories) and to pursue research on application techniques, emission factors and behaviour of pesticides in the atmosphere.