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Evaluation of exposure modelling strategies in the context of environmental risk assessment for pesticides

  • The application of pesticides to agricultural areas can result in transport to adjacent non-target environments. In particular, surface water systems are likely to receive agricultural pesticide input. When pesticides enter aquatic environments, they may pose a substantial threat to the ecological integrity of surface water systems. To minimize the risk to non-target ecosystems the European Union prescribes an ecotoxicological risk assessment within the registration procedure of pesticides, which consists of an effect and an exposure assessment. This thesis focuses on the evaluation of the exposure assessment and the implications to the complete regulatory risk assessment, and is based on four scientific publications. The main part of the thesis focuses on evaluation of the FOCUS modelling approach, which is used in regulatory risk assessment to predict pesticide surface water concentrations. This was done by comparing measured field concentrations (MFC) of agricultural insecticides (n = 466) and fungicides (n = 417) in surface water to respective predicted environmental concentrations (PEC) calculated with FOCUS step 1 to step 4 at two different levels of field relevance. MFCs were extracted from the scientific literature and were measured in field studies conducted primarily in Europe (publications 1 and 3). In addition, an alternative fugacity-based multimedia mass-balance model, which needs fewer input parameters and less computing effort, was used to calculate PECs for the same insecticide MFC dataset and compared to the FOCUS predictions (publication 3). Furthermore, FOCUS predictions were also conducted for veterinary pharmaceuticals in runoff from an experimental plot study, to assess the FOCUS predictions for a different class of chemicals with a different relevant entry pathway (publication 2). In publication 4, the FOCUS step-3 approach was used to determine relevant insecticide exposure patterns. These patterns were analysed for different monitoring strategies and the implications for the environmental risk assessment (publication 4). The outcome of this thesis showed that the FOCUS modelling approach is neither protective nor appropriate in predicting insecticide and fungicide field concentrations. Up to one third of the MFCs were underpredicted by the model calculations, which means that the actual risk might be underestimated. Furthermore, the results show that a higher degree of realism even reduces the protectiveness of model results and that the model predictions are worse for highly hydrophobic and toxic pyrethroids. In addition, the absence of any relationship between measured and predicted concentrations questions the general model performance quality (publication 1 and 3). Further analyses revealed that deficiencies in protectiveness and predictiveness of the environmental exposure assessment might even be higher than shown in this thesis, because actual short-term peak concentrations are only detectable with an event-related sampling strategy (publication 4). However, it was shown that the PECs of a much simpler modelling approach are much more appropriate for the prediction of insecticide MFC, especially for calculations with a higher field relevance (publication 3). The FOCUS approach also failed to predict concentrations of veterinary pharmaceuticals in runoff water (publication 2). In conclusion, the findings of this thesis showed that there is an urgent need for the improvement of exposure predictions conducted in the environmental risk assessment of pesticides as a group of highly relevant environmental chemicals, to ensure that the increasing use of those chemicals does not lead to further harmful effects in aquatic ecosystems.

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Author:Anja Knäbel
Referee:Ralf Schulz, Martin Scheringer
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2016/03/20
Date of publication:2016/04/04
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 7
Date of final exam:2016/01/20
Release Date:2016/04/04
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG