French Observatory for Pesticide Residues
Background and Mission of the ORP
In November 2003, the French Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Consumer Affairs and Ecology created the French Observatory for Pesticide Residues (ORP). This observatory aims to collect, analyse and exploit information on the presence of pesticides in different environments. It takes into account pesticides in the broad sense, that is, plant protection products, biocides, and external antiparasitics for veterinary and human use. Its work is intended to help characterise pesticide exposure in the general and occupational populations, as well as in ecosystems, for risk assessment purposes. It should also facilitate scientific research in the area of health.
The French Observatory for Pesticide Residues (ORP) was created in November 2003 at the request of the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Consumer Affairs and Ecology. Its creation was initially entrusted to the French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA), the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (AFSSET) and the French Environmental Institute (IFEN). Its scientific and technical coordination was then entrusted to AFSSET. Since 1 July 2010 and the merger of AFSSA and AFSSET, ANSES has been responsible for this coordination.
The ORP aims to collect, analyse and exploit information on the presence of pesticides in different environments, taking into account pesticides in the broad sense, that is, plant protection products, biocides and external antiparasitics for veterinary and human use.
The ORP has a supervisory committee responsible for monitoring the progress of the work and identifying priorities. In addition to ANSES, this committee is composed of representatives of the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Ecology, Consumer Affairs and Labour.
With the creation of ANSES, the ORP’s activities are now fully integrated into the Agency’s expert appraisal process. Furthermore each ORP project is monitored by the relevant ANSES Expert Committee (CES). The ORP’s annual work programme is validated by the Agency’s thematic steering committee.
Active participation in various national action plans
The French National Environment & Health Action Plans (PNSE 2004-2008 and 2009-2013), provided for in the Act of 9 August 2004 on public health policy, aim to respond to the French public’s concerns about the short- and medium-term health impacts of exposure to certain pollutants in their environment. The work of the ORP falls within this scope. In particular, it is helping to organise exploitation of existing data to estimate the population’s exposure to pesticides (PNSE 1, Action 36), coordinate an environmental health surveillance network to support preventive and precautionary policies (PNSE 1, Action 40), enhance knowledge on exposure to pesticides (plant protection and biocidal products) (PNSE 2, Action 6) and strengthen the monitoring of occupational exposure (PNSE 2, Action 12).
The Ecophyto 2018 Plan, introduced in 2008 and led by the Ministry of Agriculture, aims to reduce the use of plant protection products in agriculture by up to 50% by the year 2018, if possible. As part of this plan, the ORP was mandated to coordinate the definition and provision of information on early indicators of risk. These indicators are used to make a quantitative assessment of the reduced impact of plant protection products on different environmental compartments and on health (Theme 1, Actions 9 and 10). This work with indicators will be enhanced by the development and use of an information system that will enable the sharing of available data (Theme 1, Action 1). The ORP has also taken an active part in defining Theme 9 on the health and safety of workers.
Actions undertaken by the ORP since 2003, as part of its mission and in support of various national plans, have produced a wealth and diversity of results.
Since June 2006, the ORP website has provided the general public with the available data on pesticide residues in the environment and the current state of knowledge on exposure. This site can be used to view the current regulations and the measures taken by the public authorities for learning about and controlling exposure to pesticide residues.
In March 2009, a feedback symposium entitled: “Mieux connaître les usages de pesticides pour comprendre les expositions” [Learn more about pesticide use to understand exposure] presented researchers, risk managers and other stakeholders with the results of studies and surveys conducted or funded by the ORP. This symposium demonstrated that even today, it is still difficult to characterise the exposure of the general or occupational populations.
The publication of reports on three scientific studies in October 2010 helped identify the ORP’s priorities for action. The aim of this work, conducted by three study groups composed of experts (toxicologists, epidemiologists, risk assessors, environmentalists, etc.), was to produce:
- an overview of available data on the presence of pesticide residues in air and indoor environments;
- an inventory of existing pesticide databases in order to prepare a statement of requirements for the creation of an internet portal for databases on pesticide properties;
- an inventory of existing data to characterise the uses of pesticides and identify the active substances in various environments, which could then be used to identify deficiencies and obstacles to developing reliable knowledge of pesticide exposure.
An historic mission in the area of food
With the merger of AFSSA and AFSSET in 2010, the ORP gained from a wealth of experience in characterising dietary exposures for the purpose of risk assessment. Work in this area is organised along four lines:
- surveillance study of dietary exposure of the population,
- acquisition and structuring of knowledge on the presence of pesticides in foods and on agricultural uses of pesticides,
- methodological developments for the assessment of dietary exposure, especially combined, to pesticide residues,
- definition and updating of indices of chronic and acute risk related to dietary exposure of the population.
This work contributes to ANSES’s expert appraisals on:
- interpretation of exceeding maximum residue limits (MRLs),
- development/direction of plans for monitoring and controlling pesticide residues from the Ministries of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs,
- development and validation of predictive models of consumer exposure for establishing MRLs.
These actions also contribute to the work being conducted within the framework of Ecophyto 2018.
On the basis of this current work and in addition to its historic missions, the ORP continues its activities to improve accessibility to environmental contamination data and assess the exposure of populations to pesticides for risk assessment purposes. An integrated approach, taking into account all sources (dietary, environmental, occupational) and routes of exposure (oral, dermal, respiratory), is preferred in order to estimate the contribution of each source and route to total pesticide exposure. It may require the implementation of specific actions to acquire sufficient knowledge as, for example, on domestic use of pesticides in mainland France and the French overseas territories. Given their specific characteristics, some populations are also the subject of dedicated work, as in the case of the Caribbean islands’ populations (dietary exposure to chlordecone and other pesticide residues), but also populations of agricultural workers.