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Environmental risk assessment for pesticides in the atmosphere : The results of an international workshop

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Author: Guicherit, R. · Bakker, D.J. · Voogt, P. de · Berg, F. van den · Dijk, H.F.G. van · Pul, W.A.J. van
Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers
Place: Dordrecht, Netherlands
Institution: TNO Milieu, Energie en Procesinnovatie
Source:Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 1-4, 115, 5-19
Identifier: 235173
doi: DOI:10.1023/A:1005238703698
Keywords: Environment · Atmospheric fate · Atmospheric transport · Deposition · Emission · Long-range transport · Pesticides · Registration · Remote area · Risk assessment · Transformation · Air pollution · Composition effects · Dispersions · Environmental impact · Environmental protection · Risk assessment · Technical presentations · Predicted environmental concentration (PEC) · Predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) · Pesticide effects · Netherlands


The Health Council of the Netherlands organised an international workshop on the fate of pesticides in the atmosphere and possible approaches for their regulatory environmental risk assessment. Approximately forty experts discussed what is currently known about the atmospheric fate of pesticides and major gaps in our understanding were identified. They favoured a tiered approach for assessing the environmental risks of atmospheric dispersion of these chemicals, in the first tier a pesticide's potential for emission during application, as well as its volatilisation potential should be assessed. Estimates of the former should be based on the application method and the formulation, estimates of the latter on a compound's solubility in water, saturated vapour pressure and octanol/water partition coefficient. Where a pesticide's potential for becoming airborne exceeds critical values, it should be subjected to a more rigorous second tier evaluation which considers its toxicity to organisms in non-target areas. This evaluation can be achieved by calculating and comparing a predicted environmental concentration (PEC) and a predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC). By applying an extra uncertainty factor the PNEC can be provisionally derived from standard toxicity data that is already required for the registration of pesticides. Depending on the distance between the source and the reception area, the PEC can be estimated for remote areas using simple dispersion, trajectory type models and for nearby areas using common dispersion models and standard scenarios of pesticide use. A pesticide's atmospheric transport potential is based on factors such as its reaction rate with OH radicals. It should be used to discriminate between those compounds for which only the risks to nearby ecosystems have to be assessed, and those for which the risks to remote ecosystems also have to be determined. The participants were of the opinion that this approach is, in principle, scientifically feasible, although the remaining uncertainties are substantial. Further field and laboratory research is necessary to gain more reliable estimates of the physico-chemical properties of pesticides, to validate and improve environmental fate models and to validate the applicability of standard toxicity data. This will increase both the accuracy of and our confidence in the outcome of the risk assessment.