Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pesticide pollution in European waterbodies: List of chemicals to be monitored should be updated immediately, experts urge

Date:
October 13, 2011
Source:
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ
Summary:
Pesticides are a bigger problem than had long been assumed. This is the conclusion of a study in which scientists analyzed data on 500 organic substances in the basins of four major European rivers. It was revealed that 38 per cent of these chemicals are present in concentrations which could potentially have an effect on organisms.

River Elbe in Germany. The study focused on organic pollutants recorded in over 750,000 entries of water analyses in the basins of the Elbe (Czech Republic/Germany), the Danube (10 neighbouring European countries), the Schelde (Belgium) and the Llobregat (Spain) rivers. According to the European Commission, this is the first study which has developed a system which has classified organic pollutants on the basis of assessment criteria and the need for action.
Credit: André Künzelmann/UFZ

Pesticides are a bigger problem than had long been assumed. This is the conclusion of a study in which scientists analysed data on 500 organic substances in the basins of four major European rivers. It was revealed that 38 per cent of these chemicals are present in concentrations which could potentially have an effect on organisms.

According to scientists writing in the journal Science of the Total Environment, this conclusion clearly shows that contamination by organic chemicals is a problem throughout Europe. Most of the substances classified as a risk to the environment in the study were pesticides; the majority of these are not on the European list of priority substances which have to be monitored regularly. They therefore believe that the list of chemicals specified by the EU Water Framework Directive as having to be monitored by national authorities urgently needs to be revised.

The aim of the EU Water Framework Directive is that surface water and groundwater bodies should reach a good environmental and chemical status by 2015. The chemical status will be assessed based on a list of 33 so-called priority pollutants. As over 14 million chemicals are on the market and over 100,000 of these are produced on an industrial scale, the authorities have to confine their monitoring to a manageable number of pollutants. Throughout Europe scientists are therefore working on methods to establish which pollutants these should be.

An important contribution to this has now been made by a study completed by the scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) together with colleagues in France, Slovakia, Belgium and Spain. They analysed a database compiled for the EU MODELKEY research project which contains five million records on physicochemical data. The study focused on organic pollutants recorded in over 750,000 entries of water analyses in the basins of the Elbe (Czech Republic/Germany), the Danube (10 neighbouring European countries), the Schelde (Belgium) and the Llobregat (Spain) rivers. According to the European Commission, this is the first study which has developed a system which has classified organic pollutants on the basis of assessment criteria and the need for action.

One of the most frequently registered compounds was diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a chemically-produced softener which may impair fertility and is therefore banned in the EU from 2015. This is followed by another softener bisphenol A (BPA), which may also impair fertility, and diclofenac and ibuprofen, two pharmaceutical substances used commonly in painkillers.

The scientists classified a total of 73 compounds as potential priority pollutants. Around two thirds of these are pesticides, i.e. products used in agriculture to protect crops against disease, pests and weeds. The most problematic pesticides were diazinon, which is already no longer allowed in Germany and Austria, as well as azoxystrobin and terbuthylazine, which are still allowed in Central Europe. "Neither of these pesticides is on the list of 33 priority pollutants, which have to be monitored by authorities throughout the EU," explains UFZ researcher Dr. C. Peter von der Ohe. "Terbuthylazine is a compound that is structurally closely related to the priority pollutants simazine and atrazine, which may not be applied any more. This is a nice example how small structural modifications of chemical products may apparently improve the chemical status without mitigating any hazards to the aquatic ecosystems." Thus, the scientists strongly support that the priority pollutant list is regularly updated. Today the majority of the substances currently presenting problems are not listed, while many of the chemicals being monitored have been banned for some time and are no longer used. "We were also surprised that substances previously classified as harmless, such as HHCB, which is used as a synthetic musk fragrance in personal care products, are present in the environment in alarming concentrations," adds Dr. Werner Brack of the UFZ, who advises the European Commission in various committees and projects on the revision of the list of priority pollutants. "In our opinion the development of the Water Framework Directive should ensure that in future not only the presence of chemical substances but also their effects are monitored," suggests Brack.

For all of the criticism that the water authorities in Europe are currently paying too little attention to pesticides and that the list of priority pollutants should be revised, in the opinion of the scientists the study also reveals the first successes of the Water Framework Directive. One third of the pollutants classified as priority a few years ago by the EU now no longer present a risk to the rivers studied.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Peter Carsten von der Ohe, Valeria Dulio, Jaroslav Slobodnik, Eric De Deckere, Ralph Kühne, Ralf-Uwe Ebert, Antoni Ginebreda, Ward De Cooman, Gerrit Schüürmann, Werner Brack. A new risk assessment approach for the prioritization of 500 classical and emerging organic microcontaminants as potential river basin specific pollutants under the European Water Framework Directive. Science of The Total Environment, 2011; 409 (11): 2064 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.01.054

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. "Pesticide pollution in European waterbodies: List of chemicals to be monitored should be updated immediately, experts urge." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085113.htm>.
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. (2011, October 13). Pesticide pollution in European waterbodies: List of chemicals to be monitored should be updated immediately, experts urge. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085113.htm
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. "Pesticide pollution in European waterbodies: List of chemicals to be monitored should be updated immediately, experts urge." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085113.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Iceland has lowered its aviation alert on its largest volcano after a fresh eruption on a nearby lava field prompted authorities to enforce a flight ban for several hours. Duration: 01:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

AP (Sep. 1, 2014) — A lightning strike injured three people on a New York City beach on Sunday. The storms also delayed flights and interrupted play at the US Open tennis tournament. (Sept. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Fears are mounting in Bangkok that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — A study of almost 20 years' worth of satellite images shows Antarctic sea levels are on the rise as ice shelves continue to melt. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins