Residues of pesticides were found in the air outside homes located near flower bulb fields, in the dust on their doormats and in the household dust. Residues were, moreover, found in the urine of both adults and children living near flower bulb fields. The levels of pesticides measured in the air and urine did not exceed the risk limits, but more research is needed into the risks of the entire range of pesticides for residents.

Residues were found in people who live at greater distances from agricultural fields as well as people who live very close to them. Local residents can also take in residues of pesticides by routes other than the environment, for example, via their food. The concentrations of pesticides measured in the home environment of bulb growers and members of their families were higher than those found near other residents.

Follow-up research

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment carried out an initial survey into the health of residents living near agricultural land in 2018. There were some indications of health problems in some crops,  but not flower bulbs. It would be wise to look at whether a more detailed health study would be worthwhile. 

Authorisation of pesticides

A specific method is used to assess the risks of pesticides before they are authorised for sale and use. The Study of Exposure of Local Residents (OBO) yields new knowledge about how pesticides spread, i.e. via drift, volatilisation and household dust. This knowledge can be used to improve the existing assessment method. 

The concentrations of the group of pesticides investigated in the air and urine were below the risk limits observed in the authorisation of pesticides. However, there are still some unanswered questions, such as that regarding the joint effect of the pesticides in question. RIVM therefore recommends that the various combinations also be looked at when authorising pesticides. 

Knowledge platform 

RIVM advocates setting up a knowledge platform for those with questions about crop protection and health. RIVM also supports the transition to sustainable agriculture, thus further restricting the use of pesticides. 

The study was carried out by an independent consortium of knowledge institutes, comprising Utrecht University, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Wageningen University & Research (Wageningen UR), Radboud University Medical Centre (Radboudumc), Schuttelaar & Partners, CLM Advies en Onderzoek, and in a personal capacity Dr P.J.J. Sauer. RIVM coordinated the research.