Dutch farmers may be running a higher risk of developing cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diminished fertility and other health problems because of exposure to ‘a cocktail of pesticides’, experts have told news website Nu.nl.
Some 42% of Dutch farm land has excessive level of nitrogen and phosphates and on top of that comes widespread contamination with pesticide compounds, European research led by Wageningen University has shown.
Researchers found traces of 170 pesticides in and around 24 farms in Groningen and Friesland and in 24 homes in the city of Groningen. Dust collected at the farmhouses showed as many as 144 different pesticides. European rules, which only sets limits for individual pesticides, currently offer no protection from exposure to combinations.
The dust was tested for 207 pesticides which is roughly half of the pesticides on the European market and researchers are not ruling out more could be present.
The most prevalent pesticide found in the homes was the weed killer glyphosate, followed by two pesticides that are no longer allowed on the European market but which are very slow to break down.
‘Compared to other European countries the Netherlands showed high levels of pesticides in farm houses,’ professor of soil physics Violette Geissen, who was part of the research team, told Nu.nl. ‘The concentration of pesticides in water and in the air in the Netherlands is also higher than average,’ she said.
Some 40% of the pesticides found in the farmhouse dust ‘is possibly or very likely’ carcinogenic, according to European food safety watchdog EFSA, while 63% may affect fertility depending on the concentration and exposure time.
Parkinson’s disease, the fastest growing brain disease worldwide, has also been linked to pesticides, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, muscle wasting disease ALS and leukemia. The results of a study led by Radboudumc neurologist Bas Bloem into Parkinson in bulb farming area Bollenstreek, where pesticides are widely used, are expected this year.
The EFSA is currently evaluating the norms for allowing pesticides onto the European market, which the researchers have said should take the effects of a combination of pesticides into account.
In a reaction, famers’ association LTO said it welcomed the research. ‘It is important farmers and their families can work in a safe environment,’ a spokesman said. Most pesticides are considered safe, he said, but if research shows the evaluation of their safety is insufficient, action must be taken.
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