To demonstrate the urgency of strong preventive action in regard to endocrine disruptors – substances that threaten the developing fetus and young children even at low doses – Générations Futures, a HEAL partner and member in France, decided to undertake a series of monitoring reports. These are based on detailed analyzes showing the omnipresence of a number of endocrine disrupting pesticides in our environment leading to significant exposure of the population. This series is called EXPPERT (an abbreviation for “Exposure to pesticides that are endocrine disruptors” in French).
Générations Futures wanted to know more about exposure to pesticides among those living close to where spraying takes place because these people are particularly vulnerable. Some of the pesticides are suspected to be endocrine disruptors. The survey therefore addressed whether people living in agricultural areas using synthetic chemicals in cultivation (in vineyards and orchards and on fields) were permanently exposed to pesticides even in their homes. It also asked whether this exposure included substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors and whether exposure varied according to the season.
Twenty-two dust samples were collected in July 2015. (Although 24 samples were taken from different homes taking part, two samples were unsuitable for laboratory testing.) In January 2016, an additional five samples were taken in homes that had taken part in the summer collection.
Six of the houses involved are situated in wine-growing areas, five are near orchards, eight are near field crops and the remaining three are in areas bordering on a mixture of these cultivations. Tests were undertaken for 61 different pesticides.
Results: a pesticides dust bath
The results went beyond all expectations:
Each home is exposed. Analysis of the dust samples showed that each contained between eight and 30 pesticides
On average, 60% of the pesticides detected are potential endocrine disruptors. The average number of pesticides per home is almost 20 pesticides and almost 12 are potential endocrine disruptors (60.18%)
Pesticides that are possible endocrine disruptors made up a very large proportion of the pesticide exposure. Specifically, 17.3 mg of an average of 17.6 mg of pesticides quantified per kg of dust were found to be potential endocrine disruptors (98.16% of the total)
Three products are found in all (100%) of samples. They are
Among the pesticides identified, some have been banned in agriculture in France for several years. For example, Diuron, or DCMU (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea), which is found in over 90% of homes was banned in France in December 2008.
In summer and in winter
The total amount of all pesticides quantified decreased in the winter. Levels of different pesticides were between 30% and 95% lower than in the summer. In a sense, it is reassuring that the concentrations decrease. On the other hand, it is worrying that the exposure to these pesticides appears to exist throughout the entire year.
“These results clearly show that people living close to cultivated areas are exposed at home all the year round and to a significant cocktail of pesticides, many of which are potential endocrine disruptors. This fact illustrates the urgent need to change agricultural practices and to ensure that the spraying of synthetic pesticides is prohibited near areas where people live,”
“Our work also underlines the urgent need for the announcement of a definition of endocrine disruptors in order to provide real protection at European level. We call on the French government to put strong pressure on the European Commission so that this widespread exposure to endocrine disrupting pesticides in our countryside can be stopped tomorrow.”
Diana Smith, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), tel: 00 33 6 33 04 2943. Email
“Enquête EXPPERT 6 (analyses de poussières) : des riverains de zones cultivées exposés aux pesticides perturbateurs endocriniens chez eux, tout au long de l’année!”, EXPPERT Survey 6: Read the full report online in French. It includes the analysis of dust samples from both the summer and winter test done by the laboratory, Kudzu Science. Press release in French.
Other materials available in English
EXPPERT Survey 1: Which endocrine disrupting insecticides are children exposed to everyday? Press release, Brussels, 25 March 2013
EXPPERT Survey 2: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and banned Pesticides in strawberries Press release, 25 March 2013
EXPPERT Survey 3: How are children exposed to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? Press release, 9 July 2014
EXPPERT Survey 4: Nineteen endocrine disrupting pesticides found in samples of women’s hair Press release, 12 March 2015
EXPPERT Survey 5: Pesticides that are banned or suspected to be EDCs are found in green salads Press release, 22 September 2015
To demonstrate the urgent need for strong, preventive action in the field of endocrine disrupters, Générations Futures has launched a series of reports on these chemical substances, which threaten the development of the fetus and young children even at low doses. These reports are based on detailed testing and analysis to show the many, omnipresent endocrine disrupting pesticides in our environment causing significant human exposure. Green salad (lettuces, rocket/rucola, etc) is the fourth most highly consumed vegetable in France with households consuming 5kg per year, according to data from INSEE, a leading national statistical institute in France. Considered a “health” food, many brochures from INPES recommend consumption, especially during pregnancy and childhood . Generations Future fully supports these recommendations.
Green salad is subject to specific monitoring for the presence of certain chemical substances. Existing findings show that green salad is among the vegetables with the highest pesticide residues. The DGCCRF monitoring plan published in 2013 showed that pesticide residues were present in almost 58% of samples tested. Moreover, according to EFSA – the European Food Safety Authority, 36% of lettuce contains between two and 13 different residues. Many of the residues EFSA commonly finds in lettuces are suspected endocrine disrupters, such as propamocarb and iprodione. These troubling data led us to want to know more about the presence of pesticides in salads in France, and especially about those pesticides suspected of being endocrine disrupters.
Results: Many endocrine disrupters found
Thirty-one samples of different green salads (lettuce, curly salad, rocket, etc.) were purchased in supermarkets in the Oise and in the Somme regions of Picardy between 28 May and 21 July 2015. The amount of samples at 31 is bigger than the representative threshold sample size of 30 which DGCCRF commonly uses.
Below are some of the condensed findings which are further elaborated in our full report.
The green salads tested each contain an average of almost four pesticides residues.
Of the 31 samples analysed, 80.65% contain at least one pesticide residue (25/31) – not including any residue of methyl bromide (as its origin may be natural rather than from a pesticide).
On average, the samples each contain more than two residues of endocrine disrupting pesticides (average: 2.09).
67,74% of the samples contain at least one residue of an endocrine disrupting pesticide (21/31).
Among the 10 active ingredients most frequently found, seven are suspected to be endocrine disrupters.
Five samples (16.13% of total sample) contain one or more prohibited active substances (two samples or 6.45% of the total) or contain an active substance prohibited in salad cultivation in France (three samples or 9.67% of the total). Of these latter three samples, one sample even contains two substances prohibited for use in salad cultivation in France (mandipropamid and imidacloprid).
“We are warning our leaders of the need to take immediate and strong measures to reduce people’s exposure to pesticides, and especially those suspected of being endocrine disrupters. We expect them to compel Europe to rapidly implement the decisions taken as part of the European Regulation 1107/2009, which prohibits putting endocrine disrupting pesticides on the market,” says François Veillerette, spokesperson for Generations Futures.
“In addition, it is unacceptable that pesticides which are banned in Europe or prohibited in the cultivation of salad in France are present in over 16% of the samples tested. Again, we expect strong government action to quickly put an end to this situation – both in the cultivation of salads and all the other crops,” he adds.
Endocrine disruptors: Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can affect the hormonal system of the body and produce adverse effects on the individual or his or her descendants. Unborn and young children are most at risk of being exposed to these substances. A recent study showed that the impact of these EDCs could have significant costs for society (between 1 and 2% of GDP in Europe!).
To demonstrate the urgency of preventive action in the field of endocrine disruptors, Générations Futures decided to carry out a series of EXPPERT reports (French abbreviation for exposure to endocrine disruptors – EXPosition aux PERTurbateurs endocriniens), which show that the presence of EDCs in our environment leads to significant population exposure. Since young and unborn children are especially vulnerable, Générations Futures wanted to identify the extent to which vulnerable groups are exposed to EDCs, including in utero.
A novel and targeted survey:
The EXPPERT survey 4 puts the focus on the exposure of women of childbearing age who are living in urban areas in the region Ile de France (greater Paris area). The investigation was carried out by an independent research laboratory using samples of a strand of hair from 29 women. The samples were collected between March and October 2014. Only 28 samples were analysed as one of the hair samples was found to be inadequate. The laboratory work was carried out in early 2015 testing for 64 suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals, including 54 pesticides or pesticide metabolites, six brominated flame retardants and four PCBs.
The synthesis results confirmed our fears. An average of 21 EDCs were found per woman, including 19 pesticide EDCs. The number of EDCs found ranged from 32 to 12 per hair sample. In terms of weight, the lowest average amount of EDC residues per sample was 109.39 picogramme/milligram. The maximum amount per sample was 387.27 pg/mg (in comparison to 24.14 pg/mg for the lowest one). In other words, there was a 1:16 ratio between the less contaminated and most contaminated!
“These results show that all these women in childbearing age are contaminated. We are very concerned about the possible effects for the women’s children later in their lives. However, significant differences exist between individuals demonstrating that the environment and/or diet of these women play an important role in their level of exposure to EDCs. We must act on these factors to reduce to exposures to the maximum extent.”
“We have taken note of the progress of the French National Strategy on EDCs (SNPE) in taking into account the need to reduce the EDCs exposure of citizens. It is now time for the European Commission to finally publish a protective definition of EDCs, which will enable the EU Regulations on pesticides and biocides to be fully implemented.”