Assessing human health risks from pesticide use in conventional and innovative cropping systems with the BROWSE model.Environ Int. 2017 08; 105:66-78.EI
Reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and on the environment is one of the objectives of the European Commission Directive 2009/128/EC in the quest for a sustainable use of pesticides. This Directive, developed through European national plans such as Ecophyto plan in France, promotes the introduction of innovative cropping systems relying, for example, on integrated pest management. Risk assessment for human health of the overall pesticide use in these innovative systems is required before the introduction of those systems to avoid that an innovation becomes a new problem.
The objectives of this work were to assess and to compare (1) the human exposure to pesticides used in conventional and innovative cropping systems designed to reduce pesticide needs, and (2) the corresponding risks for human health.
Humans (operator and residents) exposure to pesticides and risks for human health were assessed for each pesticide with the BROWSE model. Then, a method was proposed to represent the overall risk due to all pesticides used in one system. This study considers 3 conventional and 9 associated innovative cropping systems, and 116 plant protection products containing 89 different active substances (i.e. pesticides).
The modelling results obtained with BROWSE showed that innovative cropping systems such as low input or no herbicide systems would reduce the risk for human health in comparison to the corresponding conventional cropping systems. On the contrary, BROWSE showed that conservation tillage system would lead to unacceptable risks in the conditions of our study, because of a high number of pesticide applications, and especially of some herbicides. For residents, the dermal absorption was the main exposure route while ingestion was found to be negligible. For operators, inhalation was also a predominant route of exposure. In general, human exposure to pesticides and human health risks were found to be correlated to the treatment frequency index TFI (number of registered doses of pesticides used per hectare for one copping season), confirming the relationship between the reduction of pesticide use and the reduction of risks.
Assessment with the BROWSE model helped to identify cropping systems with decreased risks from pesticides for human health and to propose some improvements to the cropping systems by identifying the pesticides that led to unacceptable risks.