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France faces systemic pollution of its drinking water

According to a report by the National Food Safety Agency, more than a third of drinking water in France is polluted by chlorothalonil, a fungicide massively used by farmers but banned since 2020. For the Ministry of Ecological Transition, this pollution does not represent “no health risk”.

Jogini Waterfalls
Jogini Waterfalls

In the report of the National Agency for Food, Environment and Labor Safety (Anses), made public on Thursday April 6, drinking water would be contaminated by a pesticide classified as “probable carcinogen”, banned since 2020.

“Found in more than one out of two samples”

Cereals, vines, potatoes, beets… it is one of the most widely used in the world for these different crops. If we have heard little about it before, it is because it was simply not sought after. This pesticide “classified as carcinogenic” would be residues of chlorothalonil. ANSES explains as follows: “On the one hand, it is the most frequently found pesticide metabolite, in more than one out of two samples. On the other hand, it leads to overruns of the quality limit in more than one out of three samples. »

In the report of the National Agency for Food, Environment and Labor Safety (Anses), made public on Thursday April 6, drinking water would be contaminated by a pesticide classified as “probable carcinogen”, banned since 2020.

“Found in more than one out of two samples”

Cereals, vines, potatoes, beets… it is one of the most widely used in the world for these different crops. If we have heard little about it before, it is because it was simply not sought after. This pesticide “classified as carcinogenic” would be residues of chlorothalonil. ANSES explains as follows: “On the one hand, it is the most frequently found pesticide metabolite, in more than one out of two samples. On the other hand, it leads to overruns of the quality limit in more than one out of three samples. »

“The Prime Minister’s Office was made aware of the situation four days before Emmanuel Macron presented his ‘water’ plan. However, the finding of contamination of water resources by pesticide metabolites is absent. “Is indignant the journalist Thibault Schepman.

76% of treated water is non-compliant

In addition, the Hauts-de-France region is where the highest concentrations of pesticides and metabolites are observed: 14.3 µg/L. 

However, according to ANSES , “to take into account their simultaneous presence, the sum of the concentrations of all the relevant pesticides and metabolites present in the water is set at 0.5 µg/L” .

The region is therefore far from the thresholds set for water quality. 76% of treated water in Hauts-de-France is considered non-compliant. “When this threshold is exceeded, it means that the quality of the water distributed to the tap is deteriorating, explains ANSES. However, the water quality limit for pesticides does not in any way constitute a threshold of health risk to consumers because it is not developed on the basis of the toxicity of the substances.”

The water quality limit for pesticides does not in any way constitute a risk threshold for the health of consumers.

National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety

Industrial, historic or agricultural pollution

The health security agency estimates that part of the water contamination has historical origins linked to the great wars of the 20th century: there are in particular residues of explosives derived from TNT. 

Hauts-de-France is also one of the regions affected by pollution with a solvent, 1.4-dioxane. Used from the 1960s as a stabilizer for solvents, its presence could this time be linked to the industrial past of the territory. 

Another conclusion of the report, ANSES now intends to look into a pesticide metabolite found in more than one out of two samples, chlorothalonil R471811. It comes from the degradation of a fungicide molecule used in agriculture and banned in France since 2020.

Chlorothalonil: 10 years of testing in the region

Chlorothalonil R471811 is considered a “relevant” metabolite, that is to say that it is suspected of carrying the same properties as its parent molecule. However, it is classified as a category 2 carcinogen at European level and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers that it should be classified as 1B. 

Chlorothalonil itself is already closely observed by our health authorities. “This substance has been sought in all catchments in the region for more than 10 years”, specifies the Regional Health Agency.

The measures, they are so far reassuring. “The maximum health value (Vmax), beyond which the water could present a risk to health and can no longer be consumed, has been set by ANSES for this parameter at 45 µg/L.”

In the region, all the analyzes carried out on catchments for more than 10 years are below the Vmax as well as the quality limit of 0.1 µg/L.

ARS Hauts-de-France

The result of its degradation, the metabolite called chlorothalonil R471811, will be “soon integrated into the health control in Hauts-de-France “. The ARS has indeed “asked the laboratory in charge of sanitary control of water in the region to develop robust and accredited techniques for the search for this metabolite”. 

The health control of this metabolite should begin “in the coming weeks”.

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Written by Geekybar

Linguist-translator by education. I have been working in the field of advertising journalism for over 10 years.

For over 7 years in journalism. Half of them are as editor. My weakness is doing mini-investigations on new topics.

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