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11 July 2007 | Printer friendly

EU Parliament vote for better protection of vulnerable groups against pesticides

On 26 June, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) of the European Parliament voted on the proposed Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and supported amendments by MEP Frédérique Ries for better protection of vulnerable groups.

These amendments foresee that the use of pesticides be prohibited in and around (with substantial buffer zones) areas where children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups are more exposed, such as residential areas, parks, playgrounds, school grounds etc. If kept with the vote in plenary due in September, this provision would represent a very concrete and important step forward for the health protection of these groups.

Read the joint NGO press release for more details on the vote "EU Parliament’s modest crack-down on pesticides"

What are the health effects linked to pesticide exposure?

Emerging scientific evidence is showing us that even relatively low doses of hazardous chemicals, including some pesticides, can seriously harm the development of the brain and that the combination or "cocktail" effects of exposure to several chemicals can be a major factor in the occurrence of cancer and other diseases, especially for the child developing in the uterus at critical stages.

An article in a leading medical journal [1] states that 1 in every 6 children has development disabilities (including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and behavioural problems) in most cases affecting the nervous system. The article also highlights the growing evidence that industrial chemicals including some pesticides may be neurotoxic. Exposure to neurotoxic chemicals is not the only factor in damaged brain development and reduced brain function, but is a preventable cause of brain damage in many children.

Low intensity exposure to pesticides may also increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, which affects more than 1 per 1 000 people in Europe (and 1% of the total population over 60). The EU-funded research project Geoparkinson [2] recently strengthened previous findings that Parkinson’s disease is associated with pesticide use. This has implications not only for occupational but also for recreational users of these agents, and should be taken into consideration in any revision of EU legislation on the table.

Read more on HEAL/PAN Europe briefing "Cutting back on pesticides for healthier lives".

[1] Grandjean P, and Landrigan PJ (2006). Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals. The Lancet 16;368(9553):2167-78

[2] The project GEOPARKINSON “Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease: Interactions between environmental exposures and genetic factors” is supported by the European Commission under the 5th Framework Programme, project number QLK4-CT-1999-01133

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