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Changes are needed in the assessment framework used to assess plant protection products and in the underlying test guidelines. Such changes would better demonstrate the potential health effects of these products. This is the advice of RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment following research carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.  

In the Netherlands, as in the rest of Europe, there is the question of whether certain substances in plant protection products could be harmful to our nervous system. These products protect plants against organisms that can make plants sick. To ensure that they are safe for humans, animals and the environment, these products undergo extensive testing. 

There is some evidence that people with a long history of past exposure to plant protection products, such as growers, are more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The question is whether the current testing methods can demonstrate potential effects like developing Parkinson’s or a similar disease.

Some information missing

According to the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment study, the current assessment framework do not include some of the information that is needed to demonstrate such effects. The current tests are unable to fully show whether a substance can cause small changes in the brain that could lead to a condition like Parkinson’s. RIVM advises updating the  assessment framework and test guidelines to include a clearer description of the effects that should be analysed and the methods that are needed to do so.

Research in Europe on risks of plant protection products

Various institutions in Europe are conducting research on the risks that plant protection products pose to the nervous system. RIVM recommends combining all this existing knowledge about these effects via a working group. Doing so could lead to better knowledge about these effects.