Pesticides and pesticide-related products in ambient air in Germany

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Background: Tree bark measurements conducted between 2014 and 2017 in a biosphere reserve in Germany have indicated the presence of pesticides from conventional agriculture in ambient air. In the present study, we quantified pesticides and related substances in ambient air at 69 sites using passive air samplers and ventilation filter mats. It is, to our knowledge, so far the most comprehensive data set on pesticides and their related products in ambient air in Germany. Results: Samples were collected in 2019 and analysed for over 500 substances. One hundred and nine (109) were detected, including 28 that are not approved for use in Germany. In each sampling site, we identified one to 36 substances, including locations such as national parks and forests. Here, the presence of pesticides is not expected, e.g., on the highest mountain top in the national park “Harz” (13 substances) and in the "Bavarian Forest" (six substances). Glyphosate was recorded in every sample. More than half of passive air samplers contained chlorothalonil, metolachlor, pendimethalin, terbuthylazine, prothioconazole-desthio, dimethenamid, prosulfocarb, flufenacet, tebuconazole, aclonifen, chlorflurenol, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and γ-hexachlorocyclohexane (γ-HCH). Filter mats also contained boscalid. The statistical analysis showed that landscape classification and agricultural intensity were the primary factors influencing the number of substances detected in ambient air. Location, such as protected areas or regions of organic farming, had only a small effect on the number of substances recorded. Medium- and long-range transport likely accounts for these findings. Extending the current sampling method will probably detect more pesticides than the data currently suggest. Conclusions: Airborne pesticide mixtures are ubiquitous in Germany, which is particularly concerning for glyphosate, pendimethalin, and prosulfocarb. Deposition of these pesticides on organic products may disqualify them from the market, resulting in economic losses to farmers. Air concentrations of pesticides are a relevant issue and must be reduced.




Kruse-Plaß, M., Hofmann, F., Wosniok, W., Schlechtriemen, U., & Kohlschütter, N. (2021). Pesticides and pesticide-related products in ambient air in Germany. Environmental Sciences Europe, 33(1).

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