EFSA proposes new acute risk assessment for pesticides

EFSA has launched for public consultation a Guidance on the assessment of risks deriving from pesticides for workers, operators, bystanders and, for the first time, residents. This Guidance will provide risk assessors with a tool allowing for a harmonised evaluation and more precise estimates on the risk of exposure to pesticides.

EFSA’s Panel on Plant protection products and their residues (PPR) proposed a series of changes to current practices in the evaluation of exposure to pesticides through skin contact and inhalation. In particular, it introduced an additional risk assessment for those plant protection products (PPPs) where toxicity could arise from acute exposure (over a single day). The Panel said that this assessment will require the specification of a new toxicological reference value: an Acute Acceptable Operator Exposure Level (AAOEL). This can be used as a reference for realistic estimates of exposure in a single day for operators, workers and bystanders. There is no need for a separate acute risk assessment for residents, as this will be covered by the acute risk assessment for bystanders.

EFSA’s PPR Panel specified that these changes will allow better protection of these groups through the improvement of the current method of risk assessment and of the statistical estimates of exposure scenarios. The availability of a harmonised model will ensure consistency between the approaches adopted by regulatory authorities at EU level. In addition, the Panel listed a series of options corresponding to various levels of protection that risk managers may take into consideration when regulating the safe use of PPPs. The draft document recommends further research to reduce current uncertainties for those scenarios where exposure estimates are least reliable. For some scenarios, the available data on exposure are particularly limited, and there would be value in further research to improve the knowledge base (e.g. worker exposure studies for crop inspection scenarios, especially for cereals, and for post-harvest activities such as packing vegetables).

This opinion of the PPR Panel on “Preparation of a Guidance Document on Pesticide Exposure Assessment for Workers, Operators, Bystanders and Residents” is now available on EFSA’s website for public consultation and comments until 15 September 2009. All interested parties are invited to submit their comments which will be taken into account to finalise the opinion by spring 2010. The opinion will be part of the first Guidance document of this kind for use in regulatory risk assessment of plant protection products in the European Union (EU), which will be finalised by the European Commission and Member States.

Notes to editors

EFSA has initiated this work in support of the implementation of the EU Directive 91/414.

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