New Method Identifies Over 300 Pesticides in Air

Jenn Hoskins
3rd April, 2024

New Method Identifies Over 300 Pesticides in Air

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in the Netherlands developed a new method to measure over 300 pesticides in the air
  • The method uses high-volume air samplers and a QuEChERS extraction technique for efficiency
  • It accurately detects pesticides in both particulate and gaseous forms, aiding risk assessment
Pesticides are a common tool in agriculture, but their use carries the potential for unintended consequences, including contamination of the air we breathe. Researchers at Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon have developed a new method to measure pesticides in the atmosphere, which could be a significant step in understanding and managing these risks[1]. Pesticides can become airborne during application or afterward, leading to possible environmental and human health concerns. To better assess these risks, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon study optimized and validated analytical techniques to detect over 300 pesticides in both particulate and gaseous forms in the air. This was achieved by collecting air samples using high-volume samplers that trap airborne particles on glass-fibre filters and gases in columns filled with specialized materials that absorb chemicals. The study selected a QuEChERS (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged, and Safe) extraction method, which uses acetonitrile, a solvent, to extract pesticides from the filters. This method is notable for its simplicity and efficiency, as previously demonstrated in a study that showed its effectiveness in extracting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from particulate matter[2]. For the gaseous samples, a cold-column extraction with dichloromethane was chosen. The determination of the pesticides was done using advanced mass spectrometry techniques. These techniques are sensitive enough to detect the presence of pesticides at very low concentrations. The study achieved recovery rates for a wide range of compounds, indicating the method's reliability. The method's sensitivity was such that it could quantify limits of the pesticides in the air ranging from 30 to 240 picograms per cubic meter on the filters, and an even lower range for the gaseous samples. This study's method was put to the test with environmental air samples from an agricultural area in the Netherlands, demonstrating its practical application. The ability to accurately measure pesticides in the atmosphere is crucial for several reasons. It can help in the assessment of inhalation exposure risks, as seen in a study conducted in Guangzhou, China, where children were found to be at the highest risk of exposure to atmospheric pesticides[3]. Furthermore, it can aid in the selection of safer pesticide alternatives, aligning with research that has produced a classification system for lower-risk pesticides[4]. The findings of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon study not only provide a new tool for monitoring atmospheric pesticides but also complement efforts to minimize the risks associated with pesticide use. For example, the study's approach could potentially be used to validate the effectiveness of the lower-risk pesticides identified in previous research[4], ensuring that these alternatives are not contributing to atmospheric pollution. Moreover, the study addresses the need for better understanding of pesticide mixtures in the environment, as highlighted by a European Union-wide survey of agricultural soils which found a widespread presence of pesticide residues[5]. By accurately measuring atmospheric pesticides, the new method could help researchers determine the sources of such residues and their potential impact on soil health. In conclusion, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon study has made significant strides in the development of a method to measure atmospheric pesticides, which could play a vital role in environmental monitoring and public health. By providing a more comprehensive picture of pesticide presence in the air, this research supports the ongoing efforts to manage pesticide risks and protect both human and environmental health.



Main Study

1) Development of an analytical method for the determination of more than 300 pesticides and metabolites in the particulate and gaseous phase of ambient air

Published 1st April, 2024

Related Studies

2) A really quick easy cheap effective rugged and safe (QuEChERS) extraction procedure for the analysis of particle-bound PAHs in ambient air and emission samples.

3) Occurrence, seasonal variation and inhalation exposure of atmospheric organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides in an urban community in South China.

4) Selection of pesticides to reduce human and environmental health risks: a global guideline and minimum pesticides list.

5) Pesticide residues in European agricultural soils - A hidden reality unfolded.

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