Biological monitoring of pesticide exposure in residents near to agricultural land
The use of pesticides and their possible health effects is a subject that gives rise to much public concern and discussion. There have been reports of ill health attributed to pesticide exposure. In particular, some people living next to agricultural land attribute health problems, rightly or wrongly, to their exposure to pesticides sprayed on these fields. There is currently a lack of reliable exposure information for residents and bystanders in the UK.
In a previous study, we showed that the methods currently used for assessing pesticide exposure for regulatory purposes were appropriate for farm workers. However, the method appeared to underestimate the actual levels for bystanders. No measurements were collected for residents. Further measurements will be made to determine if current tools and methods are appropriate for assessing exposure amongst residents living near fields.
Study aims and objectives
Our study will investigate pesticide exposure during and outside the spraying season for residents (both adults and children) living next to agricultural fields (both farms and orchards) and will assess whether the methods used for regulatory risk assessment are appropriate for assessing exposure amongst residents living near fields.
We will do this by collecting urine samples from residents and will compare the levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine of people that have been exposed to pesticides due to spraying with the level of residue predicted from data obtained from a variety of sources.
The end result will determine if the current system used to regulate pesticide exposure provides suitable protection for those people exposed.
Who is funding and organising this research?
In Great Britain the use of pesticides in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, food storage and the home or garden is regulated to protect human health and the environment. The regulatory system is administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), in collaboration with the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) and Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) were awarded funding by DEFRA to help investigate this issue.
Project findings now reported!
The project team are pleased to report that the project findings are now available.
In summary, the results showed that the exposure to pesticides for the residents living close to the sprayed fields and orchards was no higher following spraying events than during other days when no spray activities took place. Background levels of some pesticides were higher during the spraying season than outside the spraying season. Overall, the levels of pesticide exposure were low and probably mostly due to dietary intakes.
This research provides evidence that the exposure assessment carried out as part of the approval process for pesticides does not underestimate the actual exposure.
The final scientific report for the project is available from the DEFRA website:
Click here to view report