Cumulative exposure to residues of plant protection products on vegetables and fruit is not likely to cause a health effect on the thyroid. Based on calculations, RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment cannot exclude a harmful effect of substances that may affect the nervous system.

People are exposed to residues of different plant protection products via food. This can be due to the consumption of different foods which contain different residues or because more than one residue is present in a food product. RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment has analysed this so called cumulative exposure to residues from plant protection products via food. This is a method developed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in assessing pesticides. Until now, the risks for people and the environment are assessed per substance. The method can currently only be applied to the thyroid and the nervous system and not yet to other organs.

Thyroid and nervous system

There are uncertainties in this study, due to which the real exposure can be higher or lower than the reported value. With regard to substances that may affect the thyroid, the margin between the calculated exposure and the limit that is considered safe were sufficiently large, so that even in a worse case the limit that is safe will not be exceeded.

With regard to the substances that may affect the nervous system, the margin between the calculated exposure and the limit that is considered safe is relatively small. Therefore, a risk cannot be excluded. The real exposure is most likely lower than the calculated exposure, due to uncertainties in the calculation.

For one of the substances that may affect the nervous system, the legal limit has been lowered recently. Therefore, the exposure to this substance, and thereby the whole group of substances that may have an effect on the nervous system, is most probably lower.

Other organs

To analyse the safety of cumulative exposure to all residues of plant protection products via food, it is necessary to determine which substances should be summed for other organs than the thyroid and nervous system. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently working on further grouping of substances. This requires analysis of all the available data on adverse effects of residues in plant protection products.