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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2015 Dec;22(24):19632-47. doi: 10.1007/s11356-015-5148-5. Epub 2015 Aug 15.

Pesticide authorization in the EU-environment unprotected?

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  • 1Institute for Environmental Sciences, University Koblenz-Landau, Fortstrasse 7, 76829, Landau, Germany.
  • 2Institute for Environmental Sciences, University Koblenz-Landau, Fortstrasse 7, 76829, Landau, Germany.


Pesticides constitute an integral part of high-intensity European agriculture. Prior to their authorization, a highly elaborated environmental risk assessment is mandatory according to EU pesticide legislation, i.e., Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009. However, no field data-based evaluation of the risk assessment outcome, i.e., the regulatory acceptable concentrations (RACs), and therefore of the overall protectiveness of EU pesticide regulations exists. We conducted here a comprehensive meta-analysis using peer-reviewed literature on agricultural insecticide concentrations in EU surface waters and evaluated associated risks using the RACs derived from official European pesticide registration documents. As a result, 44.7 % of the 1566 cases of measured insecticide concentrations (MICs) in EU surface waters exceeded their respective RACs. It follows that current EU pesticide regulations do not protect the aquatic environment and that insecticides threaten aquatic biodiversity. RAC exceedances were significantly higher for insecticides authorized using conservative tier-I RACs and for more recently developed insecticide classes, i.e., pyrethroids. In addition, we identified higher risks, e.g., for smaller surface waters that are specifically considered in the regulatory risk assessment schemes. We illustrate the shortcomings of the EU regulatory risk assessment using two case studies that contextualize the respective risk assessment outcomes to field exposure. Overall, our meta-analysis challenges the field relevance and protectiveness of the regulatory environmental risk assessment conducted for pesticide authorization in the EU and indicates that critical revisions of related pesticide regulations and effective mitigation measures are urgently needed to substantially reduce the environmental risks arising from agricultural insecticide use.


Europe; Meta-analysis; Pesticide; Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009; Regulatory acceptable concentration; Risk assessment; Surface water

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