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Within the Italian province of South Tyrol, 32 different agricultural pesticides were detected on children’s playgrounds. An international team of scientists strongly advises to take action for public health.

Bolzano/Bologna/Brussels/Vienna – Scientists from Italy, Austria and Germany have proven the all year round contamination from pesticides. In 2018, 96 samples of grass were taken from 19 children’s playgrounds, four schoolyards and one marketplace and were analyzed by the Sanitary Services of the Province of South Tyrol. This public institution also selected the playgrounds as well as the specific time of collection of the samples. The results of the study were presented february 10th  2021 during a press conference via Zoom by the authors Fiorella Belpoggi, Koen Hertoge and Caroline Linhart. The authors of the study work at the Cancer Research Centre, Ramazzini Institute, Bologna, at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna as well as for Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe).

This study provides clear evidence of the huge presence of pesticide drift in public spaces. PAN Europe co-author Koen Hertoge regards the content of this study as an elemental contribution for more factuality around the issue. „Once again, evidence has been provided to prove that the topic of pesticide drift is of absolute importance. This study is yet another scientific proof calling on those responsible to find solutions in order to protect public health“, says Hertoge.

This study verifies the conclusion of a former study conducted by the same authors: In the previous study from 2017, 45 percent of the children’s playgrounds tested were contaminated with residues of pesticides. Not only did the new study identify the presence of residues of 32 different pesticides, but also their  presence in the environment throughout the entire year. PAN Germany’s expert toxicologist Peter Clausing commented: „The samples analyzed allow to conclude that such pesticide residues could also be found in the fruit and vegetables of adjacend gardens. In this case, the EU limit of permitted value would be exceeded significantly“.

Caroline Linhart, lead author of the study, sees the public’s chronic exposure to pesticide residues with concern: „The contamination of non-target areas is proven. 23 of the 24 examined playgrounds show an all year round multiple contamination“. According to Johann Zaller, Professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and author of Unser täglich Gift/Our daily poison the results show clearly „how pesticide users are unable to limit the toxins to the designed areas only“. The playgrounds and schoolyards represent all other non-target areas which are being contaminated with pesticide drift, like private gardens, sports facilities and the like.

The pesticide concentrations found have proven to be relatively low. However, in the case of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) the level of concentration has no relevance at all because endocrine disrupting substances do not function on a dose-response pattern. The majority of the examined substances (76 percent) were EDCs. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are associated with several types of cancer, infertility, developmental and behavioural disorders and diabetes. According to Caroline Linhart, „former samples of grass give evidence to the fact that this exposure has occured over the last decades already“.

The researchers see an urgent need for action in order to reduce the drift of pesticides. Alternative possibilites to protect public health would be the improvement of application techniques, the strict observance of wind conditions and a change towards farming methods free of pesticides.

Link Study

„Year-round pesticide contamination of public sites near intensively managed agricultural areas in South Tyrol“ https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-020-00446-y

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