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HAIR — Result In Brief

Project ID: 501997
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: Netherlands

An integrated approach to predicting pesticide risk

The increasing use of pesticides is posing serious environmental and health problems. A European network addressed this issue by developing indicators that predict pesticide-associated risks.
An integrated approach to predicting pesticide risk
The issue of pesticides has been extensively researched with the ultimate aim being to identify pathways of degradation, metabolites and the time necessary until a given compound has disappeared from the investigated ecological compartment. Testing of pesticides with respect to side-effects on non-target organisms and degradation time is therefore a necessary step on the way to the approval of a substance for agricultural use. Their recommended dose rate as well as the degradation time may therefore serve as an effective dose and toxicity measure.

To facilitate a unified approach across Europe, the EU-funded ‘Harmonised environmental indicators for pesticide risk’ (HAIR) project aimed to developed indicators of the overall risk of pesticides. The consortium integrated multidisciplinary expertise on the use, environmental fate and impact of pesticides on ecosystems and human health in order to identify the limitations of existing approaches.

Project members developed and evaluated improved indicators prior to implementing them in a software tool. This tool allowed for prediction of the risks associated with exposure to various pesticides for public health and ecosystems. The indicators were applicable at the regional level taking into account local environmental conditions. Databases for soil, climate, agricultural practices, and land and pesticide use were also developed and chronic and acute risks were evaluated.

The work of the HAIR project reflects Europe’s desire to follow an integrated approach for identifying risk associated with the use of pesticides. Study results were disseminated to stakeholders through a website and a workshop that additionally allowed coordination of European research efforts by identifying gaps.

Overall, the indicators developed by members of the HAIR consortium constitute powerful tools for assessing and monitoring the overall risks of pesticides. Their correct application will ensure management of pesticide hazards and a sustainable agriculture sector across Europe.

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