In general, no clear links were found between health and the proximity of agricultural plots. People who live nearer to agricultural plots even appeared slightly healthier than people who live further away, generally speaking, although this could have to do with lifestyle. In contrast with this general picture, a higher mortality due to conditions relating to the airways was found among people living in the proximity of fields where maize was cultivated. We are unable to say whether the use of pesticides was the cause.

A number of conditions in people living in the proximity of agricultural plots that did not show a consistent link with the quantity or proximity of specific crops were seen as noteworthy but require further research. These were a higher birth weight among babies born to people living near summer barley fields, Parkinson's disease and eye irritation among people living near fruit orchards and leukemia among people living near plots where grains, beetroot and potatoes are rotated.

Data on the actual exposure to pesticides of people living in the direct vicinity agricultural plots were not available for this survey, so the researchers looked at whether there was a link between data on the diseases and conditions suffered by residents and the distance of their homes from agricultural plots and the surface area of nearby crops. The research has been carried out by RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), Utrecht University and NIVEL (Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research).

Exposure study

In parallel with this survey, RIVM is coordinating a study into the actual exposure to pesticides of people living in the direct vicinity of agricultural plots. The first results of this study are expected later this year. The results of the exposure study and of this survey will serve as the requisite guidelines for follow-up research.