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Assessment of exposure of professional operators to pesticides

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JournalScience of the Total Environment
DateIn preparation - 2017
DateSubmitted - Sep 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Nov 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 29 Nov 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Apr 2018
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)874-882
Early online date29/11/17
Original languageEnglish


This study investigates how field practices in handling and applying pesticides influence the long-term patterns of professional agricultural operators’ exposure to pesticides. It presents the first use of a comprehensive pesticide application dataset collected on behalf of the European Food Safety Authority with 50 operators selected to cover arable and orchard cropping systems in Greece, Lithuania and the UK. Exposure was predicted based on the harmonised Agricultural Operator Exposure Model (AOEM) and compared with Acceptable Operator Exposure Levels (AOELs). The amount of pesticides handled by individual operators across a cropping season was largest in the UK arable and orchard systems (median 580 and 437 kg active substance, respectively), intermediate for the arable systems in Greece and Lithuania (151 and 77 kg, respectively), and smallest in the Greek orchard system (22 kg). Overall, 30 of the 50 operators made at least one application within a day with predicted exposure greater than the AOEL. The rate of AOEL exceedance was greatest in the Greek cropping systems (8 orchard operators, 2.8-16% of total applications; 7 arable operators, 1.1-14% of total applications), and least for the Lithuanian arable system (2 operators, 2.9-4.5% of total applications). Instances in Greece when predicted exposure exceed the AOEL were strongly influenced by the widespread use of wettable powder formulations (>40% of the total pesticide active substance handled for 11 of the 20 Greek operators). In contrast, the total area of land treated with an active substance on a single day was more important in the UK and Lithuania (95th percentile observed value was 132 and 19 ha day-1 for UK arable and orchard systems, respectively). Study findings can be used to evaluate current assumptions in regulatory exposure calculations and to identify situations with potential risk that require further analysis including measurements of exposure to validate model estimations.

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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

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