Pesticides detected in groundwater

45 percent of the measuring points in Lower Saxony contain degradation products of pesticides

Spraying pesticides - in conventional agriculture everyday life © thinkstock
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Pretty contaminated: In many parts of Lower Saxony, groundwater is contaminated with pesticide residues. In some cases, the degradation products of pesticides are above the limits, as the NDR magazine Panorama 3 reports. The values ​​are based on a study by a Lower Saxony State Office. Also there you can see the results apparently with concern.

The intensive use of pesticides in agriculture has a high price. On the one hand, the partially toxic residues of these remedies can now be found even in high mountains, in many waters worldwide and even in their own garden. On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that pesticides, even in low doses, can reduce our fertility, cause cancer and promote autism.

45 percent of the measuring points contaminated

How high the burden of groundwater with pesticides is, the Lower Saxony State Agency for Water, Coastal and Nature Conservation (NLWKN) has examined in a study. The result: Residues of pesticides were detected at 45 percent of the groundwater measuring points in Lower Saxony. At ten measuring points, the permissible limits for such active substances were even exceeded.

The active ingredient bentazone, which is found in weedkillers, was particularly common in the samples. Highest individual proofs of pesticide relics can be found among other things at measuring points in the districts of Cuxhaven, Verden, Rotenburg (Wümme), Hildesheim, Emsland, Osnabrück and Helmstedt.

"Cause for concern"

"The current state clearly shows that we have burdens that sometimes go beyond the limits. That's not tolerable, "says Joseph Hölscher of the NLWKN. He calls for improved concepts for the protection of groundwater. Although most of the finds are degradation products of plant protection products, which do not generally cause a toxic effect. Nevertheless, the authorities are alarmed: "It is a cause for concern that these substances are found to such a high degree, " said Hölscher. display

According to the report, there is a correlation between the pesticide residues found and cultivated crops such as rape, corn and rapeseed. Farmers point out, however, that without the use of pesticides, the cultivation of agricultural products in many regions of Lower Saxony would no longer be profitable. In addition, they used only approved active ingredients.

Licensing practice too lax?

Many drinking water suppliers in northern Germany also detect residues of pesticides at their groundwater sources. "Our concern is that today's quality of groundwater will no longer be guaranteed, " says Olaf Schr der, managing director of the Peine Water Association. He criticizes the current approval procedure for plant protection products, according to which residues of 0.1 microgram of pesticides per liter of water are permissible. "There must be a zero in the groundwater reachable and so approvals must be set up."

In the approval authority for crop protection products, the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) in Braunschweig, rejects a change in the current rules. "If we do not want pesticides in the groundwater at all, then we would have to pay for them with unsafe food production, " says Martin Streloke, department head for crop protection products at the BVL. He points out, however, that this is ultimately a question that must be resolved by the legislator.

Streloke suggests that it often takes several years for the discovery of a pesticide in the groundwater. In the future, this analysis should be faster. Sales of pesticides in Germany have increased sharply in recent decades. According to the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, sales of pesticides in 1993 were still 28, 930 tonnes. 20 years later, 43, 765 tons were sold in this country. This corresponds to an increase of 51 percent.

More on this topic in "Panorama3" on May 23 at 21:15 in the NDR.

(NDR, 24.06.2015 - NPO)