EU votes to ban common fungicide after experts warn of possible threat to health

The European Union (EU) has voted to ban a fungicide that has been in use for 55 years after an expert review by the EU’s safety authority found groundwater exposure to the chemical’s metabolites (breakdown products) was “a critical area of concern” and included a possible cancer threat.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that were concentrations of metabolites of the fungicide, chlorothalonil, in groundwater to exceed 0.1 l g/l it could be relevant to its concerns because the fungicide could be a carcinogen – a cancer-inducing substance. The expert review proposed that chlorothalonil should be classified as a carcinogen category 1B (substances presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans).

The National Farmers’ Union said the commission had been “overly precautionary in making its decision” – and had failed to consider the particular importance of chlorothalonil in “the control of critical fungal diseases and in managing disease resistance.”

The EFSA peer review of scientific literature found it was not possible to rule out threats to human health and the environment arising from the use of chlorothalonil, in agriculture. EFSA reported that chlorothalonil, presented “a high risk to amphibians (acute) and to fish (chronic).”

It said also that there was inadequate data available to dismiss the threat to:

  • wild mammals from chlorothalonil and one of its metabolites;

  • aquatic organisms from chlorothalonil surface water metabolites; and

  • to honeybees from chlorothalonil only.