Readers will be familiar with concerns that traditional chemical risk assessment methods give results which are either insufficiently complete (ignoring mixture effects, for example) or insufficiently accurate (e.g. by potentially under-estimating risks from individual compounds).

There is also the concern that chemical regulations might be insufficiently enforced, as highlighted in a recent paper in Environmental Science and Pollution Research (Stehle & Schulz 2015a).

In this paper, the researchers reviewed the published literature measuring pesticide levels in EU surface waters, aggregating a total of 1566 measured insecticide concentrations. Of these, 45% exceeded the maximum limit as determined by their respective risk assessments.

This paints a worrying picture of pesticide risk assessment in the EU: even if the results of the risk assessment are sufficiently protective (which seems doubtful), they are not being adequately enforced. So in what sense are EU pesticides laws sufficiently protective of the environment?

The research follows on from another study by the same authors, published earlier in 2015, which found that more than 50% of global surface waters contain pesticide residues exceeding the limit determined by their risk assessments (Stehle and Schulz 2015b), and was covered by the Washington Post.

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