New draft guidance on pesticide exposure assessment – published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – has been welcomed by the British Crop Production Council (BCPC). When finalised, the guidance will be used in future EU regulatory risk assessments of pesticides for workers, operators, bystanders and residents.
In November 2008, a long campaign by environmental activist Georgina Downs resulted in a High Court judgement against the UK Government on its failure to protect people from pesticides. However, in July of this year it was overturned by the UK’s Court of Appeal.
One of the outcomes of these cases is recognition that there should be standardization of pesticide exposure assessments for bystanders and residents throughout the EU.
"The stated intention is to ensure an exposure assessment similar to, or "somewhat" more conservative than, the present approaches" says Dr Ruscoe. "The proposed guidance is pragmatic in that the "first tier" assessments will be relatively simple – it is consistent with the EU methodology currently used for dietary risk assessment – and it should not result in undue conservatism".
"However, many of the values included in the proposal are based on old data, not relevant to current agricultural practices," warns Dr Ruscoe. "It will be important to replace old results with new, more appropriate data. And since the proposed approach has no precedent in European regulatory operator exposure assessment, we do see a need for validation, to determine what levels of conservatism are in fact involved."
"There should be comparisons of outcomes from the proposed new approach with results from both UK and German models. Many existing EU product approvals have been based on the German model for operator risk assessment; without such validation, what would happen if these products "failed" under the new approach?" questions Dr Ruscoe.
In the UK, whilst recognising that there are no major flaws in the current methods of risk assessment for operators and workers, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) is reviewing the current assessments of risks of pesticide exposure, in the light of the latest research, to improve risk assessment and mitigation for bystanders and residents. They will then advise the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) of any changes needed.