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26 September 2006 | Printer friendly

France: report on the state of the contamination of waters by pesticides, August 2006

In August 2006, the French Institute for the Environment has released a report on the state of the contamination of waters by pesticides according date from 2003 and 2004. An assessment on drinking water based on the data from 2000, 2001 and 2002 was also issued by the Directorate General of Health. [1]

This document is a synthesis of data from 2003 and 2004 for inland and underground waters. The contamination by pesticides can apply without distinction to all the French territory, including the overseas regions. It also concerns both surface and underground waters, especially in agricultural and urban areas. Both the number of molecules investigated (459 in 2004 and 408 in 2002) and the quantified substances continue to grow. However, the Institute notes that without further analysis it cannot be implied that there are more types of molecules in waters in 2004 than in 2002.

In France the agricultural sector uses approximately five hundred active substances, which constitute the active ingredient of pesticides, and used in the composition of more than eight thousand marketed products. Those products are granted a marketing authorization delivered by the Minister of Agriculture, after a procedure of risk assessment for the consumer, the user and environment [2].

Although the sites controlled do not constitute a representative sample of the totality of the rivers and underground waters, the data provide an overview of the contamination of waters by pesticides in France. The levels of contamination by pesticides for surface waters and drinking water for underground waters are often significant. Some of the concentrations recorded can even disturb the aquatic environment or exceeded the acceptable thresholds for the production of drinking water without specific treatment.

In 2004, pesticides are present in 96% of all surface waters under examination. About 50% of the sites have a quality ranging from average to bad, among which more than 1/6 have a concentration of pesticides which can affect ecological balances or be unsuitable with the supply of drinking water.

Concentrations of pesticides in underground waters have been quantified in 61% of the sites. About 30% of the total of underground waters are of poor or bad quality and would require a specific elimination treatment of pesticides if they were to be used as drinking water. Some of them even have contents higher than the legal standards and would require an exceptional authorization of the Ministry of Health if they were to be used as drinking water.

The report is well illustrated and includes a number of maps and graphs on the state of contamination in the different parts of the territory. For more detailed information see the IFEN Report on “Pesticides in waters - Data 2003/2004” (only in French)

[1] The report is only available in French and entilted "l’eau potable en France - 2002-2004". It is published on the Health Ministry website

[2] The catalogue of these products and their uses is available at

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