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Pure Appl. Chem., 2003, Vol. 75, No. 8, pp. 1123-1155


Regulatory limits for pesticide residues in water (IUPAC Technical Report)

D. J. Hamilton1*, Á. Ambrus2, R. M. Dieterle3, A. S. Felsot4, C. A. Harris5, P. T. Holland6, A. Katayama7, N. Kurihara8, J. Linders9, J. Unsworth10 and S.-S. Wong11

1 Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Australia
2 Joint FAO/IAEA Division, Vienna, Austria
3 Syngenta Crop Protection AG, Basel, Switzerland
4 Food and Environmental Quality Laboratory, Washington State University, Pullman, WA USA
5 Exponent International, Harrogate, UK
6 Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand
7 Research Center for Advanced Waste and Emission Management, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan
8 Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
9 National Institute for Public Health and Environment, Bilthoven, Netherlands
10 Bayer CropScience, Lyon, France
11 Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute, Taichung Hsien, Taiwan Republic of China

National governments introduced residue limits and guideline levels for pesticide residues in water when policies were implemented to minimize the contamination of ground and surface waters. Initially, the main attention was given to drinking water.
Regulatory limits for pesticide residues in waters should have the following characteristics: definition of the type of water, definition of the residue, a suitable analytical method for the residues, and explanation for the basis for each limit.
Limits may be derived by applying a safety factor to a no-effect-level, or from levels occurring when good practices are followed and also passing a safety assessment, or from the detection limit of an analytical method, or directly by legislative decision.
The basis for limits and guideline values issued by WHO, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, European Union, and Taiwan is described, and examples of the limits are provided. Limits have been most commonly developed for drinking water, but values have also been proposed for environmental waters, effluent waters, irrigation waters, and livestock drinking waters. The contamination of ground water is of concern because it may be used as drinking water and act as a source of contamination for surface waters. Most commonly, drinking water standards have been applied to ground water.
The same terminology may have different meanings in different systems. For example, guideline value (GV) in WHO means a value calculated from a toxicology parameter, whereas in Australia, a GV is at or about the analytical limit of determination or a maximum level that might occur if good practices are followed. In New Zealand, the GV is the concentration where aesthetic significance is influenced. The Australian health value (HV) is conceptually the same as the WHO GV. The New Zealand maximum acceptable value (MAV) and the Canadian maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) are also conceptually the same as the WHO GV.
Each of the possible ways of defining the residues has its merits. A residue limit in water expressed as the sum of parent and toxicologically relevant transformation products makes sense where it is derived from the acceptable daily intake (ADI). For monitoring purposes, where it is best to keep the residue definition as simple as possible for the sake of practical enforcement and economy, the parent or a marker residue is preferable. It is also possible for parent and degradation products (hydrolysis and photolysis products and metabolites) to become physically separated as the water moves through soil strata, which suggests that separate limits should be set for parent and important degradation products.
The Commission has made 12 recommendations for regulatory limits for pesticide residues in water. The recommendations will act as a checklist for authorities introducing or revising limits or guidelines for pesticide residues in water.