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Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Apr;117(4):508-14. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800084. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Impacts of climate change on indirect human exposure to pathogens and chemicals from agriculture.

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  • 1EcoChemistry Team, University of York, Heslington, York, United Kingdom. a.boxall@csl.gov.uk



Climate change is likely to affect the nature of pathogens and chemicals in the environment and their fate and transport. Future risks of pathogens and chemicals could therefore be very different from those of today. In this review, we assess the implications of climate change for changes in human exposures to pathogens and chemicals in agricultural systems in the United Kingdom and discuss the subsequent effects on health impacts.


In this review, we used expert input and considered literature on climate change; health effects resulting from exposure to pathogens and chemicals arising from agriculture; inputs of chemicals and pathogens to agricultural systems; and human exposure pathways for pathogens and chemicals in agricultural systems.


We established the current evidence base for health effects of chemicals and pathogens in the agricultural environment; determined the potential implications of climate change on chemical and pathogen inputs in agricultural systems; and explored the effects of climate change on environmental transport and fate of different contaminant types. We combined these data to assess the implications of climate change in terms of indirect human exposure to pathogens and chemicals in agricultural systems. We then developed recommendations on future research and policy changes to manage any adverse increases in risks.


Overall, climate change is likely to increase human exposures to agricultural contaminants. The magnitude of the increases will be highly dependent on the contaminant type. Risks from many pathogens and particulate and particle-associated contaminants could increase significantly. These increases in exposure can, however, be managed for the most part through targeted research and policy changes.


agriculture; climate change; environmental fate; health risks; nutrients; pathogens; pesticides

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