Lots of pesticide residue in the water is not even measured

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In contrast to the EU, the federal government classifies numerous by-products as "not relevant".

In a current study the Association of Cantonal Chemists in Switzerland gives Swiss drinking water good grades. However, the results are indeed interesting. Because pesticides and their by-products were detected in over half of the drinking water samples. These pesticides and their by-products are deposited in the soil and contaminate groundwater and drinking water for years to come.

Only half the truth

The study relates to around 170,000 people in Switzerland, who obtain their drinking water from contaminated sources. This number includes all substances which the Federal Veterinary and Food Safety Office (BLV) has classified as "relevant". A limit value of 0.1 micrograms per litre applies to these substances.

But this is only half the truth. Our drinking water contains far more by-products of pesticides – classified by the BLV as "not relevant" and therefore have no limit value. Sometimes these substances can be found even more frequently and concentrated in the water than the "relevant" substances. Far more Swiss people are affected by pesticide residues over 0.1 micrograms per litre - around 380,000 people!

EU is more critical

The Association of Cantonal Chemists makes the following criticism: "For implementation the easiest thing would be if there was a maximum value for all by-products. In other words, a distinction is not made between relevance and non-relevance", says Kurt Seiler, Cantonal Chemist SH/AI/AR.

But there is scepticism at the Eawag, the Water Research Institute of the ETH. Juliane Hollender, Head of Environmental Chemistry, says: "You have to be very careful how you assess these by-products. Better to be more restrictive than to say it is not a problem." Because: Substances form with the disintegration of the pesticides which get into the groundwater quicker.

Controversial: Many substances which the federal government classifies as "not relevant" are considered problematic in the EU. Example: Chlorotalonil. The most common by-product with the designation R471811 is considered "not relevant" in Switzerland and therefore does not have to be measured. Unlike in the EU. Because chlorothalonil is considered carcinogenic, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also classifies all by-products like this.

BLV adheres to classification

Michael Beer, Head of the Food and Nutrition Department at the BLV, says in an interview with the TV show "Kassensturz": "We assessed twelve by-products of chlorothalonil, nine are relevant, three are not relevant. There are even by-products which we don't even know." Therefore, it is critical that the consent is withdrawn for questionable pesticides.

Beer replies to the criticism saying that too little caution is exercised in the assessment: "According to our method of assessment, one sees that this substance is very likely not carcinogenic."

For Cantonal Chemist Kurt Seiler, a great deal still needs to be done. "It is very important that one rechecks substances which were approved in the 1970s and 1980s very quickly and closes any gaps in knowledge."

SRF, Lots of pesticide residue in the water is not even measured https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/sauberes-trinkwasser-viele-pestizidrueckstaende-im-wasser-werden-gar-nicht-gemessen?, retrieved on 20.09.2019.

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