EFSA consults on pesticide exposure guidance for operators, workers, residents and bystanders

EFSA is launching a public consultation on its draft guidance to assess the risks from exposure to pesticides for operators, workers, residents and bystanders. The guidance sets out for the first time a harmonised methodology and presents a tool for calculating non-dietary exposure to pesticides for all these groups. Stakeholders and all interested parties are invited to provide feedback through the online public consultation by 20 May 2014. Comments made during the consultation will be assessed by EFSA and, where appropriate, incorporated into the final guidance document.

The draft guidance builds on EFSA’s previous work to evaluate pesticide exposure for operators, workers, residents and bystanders. Importantly this document addresses issues raised by the European Commission and Member States following publication of the original scientific opinion in 2010. Safeguarding human health is a core part of EFSA’s ongoing work in the area of pesticides.

The guidance will help risk assessors and industry applicants calculate the risk to those who are exposed to pesticides through their work or physical proximity (where they live or work or attend school) to areas such as fields or greenhouses where these chemicals are used. The guidance evaluates non-dietary exposure to pesticides by inhalation and absorption through the skin.

The guidance covers four main population groups:

  • Operators – farming professionals and home garden users who carry out activities linked to the application of pesticides, i.e. mixing and loading of pesticides into machinery, as well as operating, cleaning, emptying or repairing such equipment.
  • Workers – those who work in areas where pesticides are used or who handle crops treated with the chemicals.
  • Residents – those living, working or attending school near an area where pesticides are used and who take no protective measures such as wearing special clothing to reduce exposure. This exposure is likely to be over the long term.
  • Bystanders – those who may be in or next to an area treated with pesticides and who take no protective measures. Exposure is likely to be for a short time.

EFSA has developed an easy-to-use calculator that draws on available data to help risk assessors and applicants carry out exposure assessments. By inputting key pieces of information such as the name of the pesticide, the formulation type and how and where it is applied, the calculator will provide real-time estimates of non-dietary exposure under specific conditions of use for each of the four population groups.  It also compares the estimated exposure assessments to previously set guidance levels for acceptable exposure to the pesticide.

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