Collection and assessment of data relevant for non-dietary cumulative exposure to pesticides and proposal for conceptual approaches for non-dietary cumulative exposure assessment

Cumulative, mixtures, pesticides, operator, worker, survey, exposure, PPE, conceptual model
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
9 October 2012
11 September 2012
External Scientific Report

The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). This task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s), awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.


In response to the new Regulation 1107/2009, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) funded an 18-month project to address cumulative exposure to plant protection products (PPPs) by means of carrying out pilot surveys in six EU Member States (MS), using a specifically designed survey form. Existing PPP usage surveys provide little information on how the products are applied by operators or details of mitigation measures used etc. (e.g. personal protective equipment), hours worked or specific times of application. The pilot EFSA surveys have collected information on a wide range of factors for both operators and workers such as the number of hours worked each day for specific operator and worker tasks, personal protective equipment (PPE) used etc. The risk of exposure from combined toxicity resulting from the cumulative non-dietary exposure of operators and workers to multiple active substances used for crop protection can be determined from such data.

The specifically designed database developed using MySQL relational database with a web front-end using Adobe ColdFusion allowed consortium members to both enter and access the data remotely. The data were later extracted to provide details of the tasks performed by the operators and workers on a daily basis, which PPPs were applied, use of protective measures and duration of activities.

The crops included in the pilot surveys were:

UK Arable Crops, soft fruit
Belgium Greenhouse ornamentals, outdoor vegetables
Spain Greenhouse fruiting vegetables,
Greece Greenhouse fruiting vegetables, arable (cotton/maize)
Poland Arable (wheat), orchard (apple)
Italy Vineyards (wine grapes)

The scale of the pilot surveys is smaller than a national pesticide usage survey in terms of the number of farms visited. The EFSA survey visited approximately 10% of the number of farms which would have been involved in a national survey. Therefore the data not allow an extrapolation to a national scale. A wide range of crops and EU regions are covered by the pilot surveys to include the major agronomic practices. The pilot surveys provide an insight into the types of data recording which are carried out by growers and workers across a range of farm types and regions. The development of assurance schemes across the EU has led to an improvement in the data recording for PPP use on farms, but farm records were not always complete with details of PPP usage. Details on working practices, particularly on the smaller farms were often poorly recorded.

The activities of individual operators and workers on farms in six EU MS is available as a diary of activities, which can be used in risk assessments for short term (acute) and long term (chronic) exposures to single and multiple compounds. The database holds the records of all individuals in the survey with a unique reference number, allowing the activities to be downloaded for specific periods or a whole growing season. This information includes the reference of the farm the person was working on, the date of the activity, the field number, and the dates that PPPs were used on that field. The information for the operator was usually well recorded, and for workers some of the details were sometimes absent from the farm records.

The use of a conceptual model to predict cumulative non-dietary exposure can overcome some of the short comings in the availability of data, and the project has developed such an approach using scenarios. The consortium is working closely with ongoing research projects such as the EU funded FP7 project BROWSE, which would provide the estimates of exposures based on the activities and scenarios developed within this EFSA funded project. The review of data for the cumulative assessment of non-dietary exposure has also identified and quantified sources of uncertainties, and ways of they could be dealt with.

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