Pesticides or plant protection products are chemical substances used to treat crops against insects, moulds and weeds.
During application, a large proportion of the pesticides do not reach the crops and are released into the environment. The problem of pesticide drift is particularly relevant for houses located near treated crops.
PAN-Europe and Save Bees and Farmers wanted to know more about the pollution of homes by agricultural pesticides.
With the support of YOOTEST, these associations therefore organised a measurement campaign in the bedrooms of homes in 21 countries of the European Union: Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden
"Pesticide pollution in housing concerns all European countries
YOOTEST sent sampling kits and dust samples were taken in July 2021 in the bedrooms of homes near crops treated with pesticides.
The samples were then analysed for 30 of the most widely used pesticides used exclusively in agriculture, which have marketing authorisation in European Union countries.
They belong to the families of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
Are agricultural pesticides present in European homes?
The presence of pesticides used exclusively for agricultural purposes in a dwelling is a direct consequence of the drift of pesticides during spraying near dwellings.
The presence of several agricultural pesticide residues in the home indicates that several treatments have been applied.
Of the 30 pesticides tested, only 6 were never detected.
However, the results of the analyses show that all the dwellings are polluted by pesticide residues used exclusively in agriculture.
"All homes tested in the 21 European countries are contaminated by agricultural pesticides
Each sample studied contained between 1 and 23 pesticides with an average of 8.2 residues.
The sample with 23 pesticides came from Belgium.
The samples from Italy and Austria contained 13 and 12 pesticides respectively.
Occupants of dwellings in the vicinity are therefore exposed to mixtures of agricultural pesticides.
Pesticide concentrations vary from country to country and dust samples contained up to 5806 ng/g (5.8 ppm) of pesticides with an average of 991 ng/g.
The most contaminated samples came from Denmark (5806 ng/g), Spain (4936 ng/g), Lithuania (2810 ng/g) and Italy (2080 ng/g).
What are the main agricultural pesticides found in European homes?
Among the 30 pesticides tested, some were present in a large number of homes. These are mainly fungicides and herbicides. Six pesticides are present in more than one out of two dwellings.
"Six pesticides out of the 30 researched are present in more than 50% of the rooms studied
The most frequent agricultural pesticides in dwellings are :
- pyraclostrobin (81.0%, Fungicide),
- spiroxamine (81.0%, Fungicide),
- fluopyram (76.2%, Fungicide),
- pendimethalin (52.4%, Herbicide),
- terbutylazine (52.4%, Herbicide),
- trifloxystrobin (52.4%, Fungicide).
According to the latest EFSA report published in 2020, the European authority working on food safety issues, these pesticides are also those found on the food we eat.
Are there health risks for local residents from chronic exposure to agricultural pesticides?
In their report published in 2021, INSERM scientists emphasise the lack of data on the exposure of local residents to agricultural pesticides and their inability to assess the risks to their health.
A study carried out by the association Générations Futures in 2016 shows that pesticides are persistent in homes beyond 6 months. Local residents are therefore exposed to agricultural pesticides all year round.
We spend at least a third of our time in our bedrooms. The results of this study show that during their sleep, residents are exposed to multiple residues of agricultural pesticides.
As the INSERM collective expertise also points out, there is a lack of toxicological data on the effects of chronic exposure to a single pesticide.
So what about mixtures? The scientific community now agrees that the toxicity of pesticide mixtures is higher than the sum of the individual effects.
The risk of a cocktail effect is therefore real for residents exposed to pesticides. Added to this is the hormone-disrupting effect of certain pesticides, which particularly affects the development of the embryo, the foetus and young children. As endocrine disruptors act at very low doses, their mere presence can present a health risk.
"Health effects on local residents from exposure to agricultural pesticides cannot be excluded
The health risks of this chronic exposure to a mixture of pesticides can therefore not be excluded. These risks may appear after several years of exposure.
This study carried out by PAN-Europe shows that neighbouring homes are affected by pollution linked to the drift of agricultural pesticides applied to crops and that all European countries are concerned by this problem.
This study raises many questions, particularly about the use of pesticides in agriculture, the drift of pesticides applied to crops, environmental protection, as most of them are classified as "harmful to the environment", and their impact on the health of local residents, which is still very poorly documented today.
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