In France, drinking water largely contaminated with residues of a banned fungicide
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According to a report by the National Health Security Agency, published Thursday, the drinking water distributed in France would be largely contaminated by the metabolite of chlorothalonil R471811, a fungicide banned in France since 2020. It is the most frequently found metabolite. and leads to overruns of the quality limit in more than one out of three samples.
Drinking water in France is largely contaminated by residues from a fungicide banned for several years, a sign of the persistence in the environment of traces of pesticides even long after the end of their use, according to an ANSES report published on Thursday 6 April.
The National Health Security Agency (ANSES) studied water samples throughout the territory, including overseas territories, in particular looking for 157 pesticides and their metabolites, i.e. the components from their degradation. “Of the 157 compounds sought, 89 were quantified at least once in raw water and 77 in treated water”, indicates ANSES.
One case particularly attracted the attention of experts: the metabolite of chlorothalonil R471811 – the most frequently found, “in more than one out of two samples” – which led to the quality limit being exceeded (0.1 µg/litre ) “in more than one in three levies”.
This metabolite comes from the degradation in the environment of chlorothalonil, a fungicide that has been banned in France since 2020. The French authorities had been alerted to its frequent presence in Swiss drinking water.
“These results show that, depending on their properties, certain pesticide metabolites can remain present in the environment for several years after the banning of the active substance from which they originated”, concludes ANSES.
A grace period until May 2020
The European Commission had not renewed in 2019 the authorization of chlorothalonil, marketed by the German Syngenta, and France had granted a grace period until May 2020 for the disposal of stocks of the product.
Brussels then underlined that it was “impossible to date to establish that the presence of metabolites of chlorothalonil in groundwater will not have harmful effects on human health”.
The Commission quoted the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which considered that chlorothalonil “should be classified as a category 1B carcinogen”, that is to say a “suspected” carcinogen.
ANSES took up this argument in a note last year, recalling that studies on chlorothalonil had identified “kidney tumors in rats and mice”.
The agency highlighted the “lack of data to prove that the metabolite chlorothalonil R471811 does not share the mode of action of the parent SA (active substance) leading to renal tumours”.
Contacted by AFP, the Professional Federation of Water Companies (FP2E), the Ministry of Ecological Transition and that of Agriculture had not reacted Thursday at the start of the afternoon.
These revelations come as the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, wants to reconsider the procedure for banning another product, the agricultural herbicide S-metolachlor, not yet banned by the European Union.
ANSES announced on February 15 its desire to ban the main uses of this molecule, whose chemical derivatives have been detected beyond the authorized limits in groundwater.
“I will not be the minister who will abandon strategic decisions for our food sovereignty at the sole discretion of an agency”, had launched the Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau.