Relative risks of transformation products of pesticides for aquatic ecosystems

A.C. Belfroid, M.A. van Drunen, M. Beek, S.M. Schrap, C.A.M. van Gestel, A.G.M. van Hattum

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study, the availability of physico-chemical and ecotoxicological information on 78 transformation products for 20 regularly used pesticides in the open literature is evaluated. Based on this information, it is attempted to predict the relative risk for the aquatic environment of each transformation product in comparison to its parent pesticide. It is concluded that for the 78 transformation products selected, the data set on physico-chemical and ecotoxicological behaviour is not very large. Measured log K(ow) values and other physico-chemical properties are known for only 30-40% of the selected transformation products. The overall reliability of the collected physico-chemical values is considered to be moderate to slight, while for the ecotoxicological data set, reliability is considered to be sufficient. In many cases, there is a need for more information especially on the persistency and no-observed-effect concentrations of the pesticide's transformation products. In general, over 50% of the transformation products of triazines, carbamates and phenoxypropionic acids pose, in theory, a similar to higher risk than their parent pesticide, while over 50% of the transformation products of synthetic pyrethroids, organophosporous pesticides and dithiocarbamates probably pose less risk. High risk was expected for products with high accumulation or persistency in sediment and/or high toxicity together with considerable bioaccumulation (potential) or relatively high concentrations or persistency in water. A generalization of the joint features that caused an increased risk for ecosystems could not be made for most pesticide classes. Exceptions are the synthetic pyrethroids, for which transformation products with a similar or even higher log K(ow) than the parent pesticide caused an increased potential risk, while for the carbamates the presence of the carbamate group in the transformation product was the joint characteristic of chemicals with predicted increased risk. For three transformation products, monitoring data based on concentrations measured in surface water in The Netherlands were compared with maximum permissible concentrations. This comparison indicated that two of these compounds pose a potential risk of adverse effects in the field situation in Dutch aquatic ecosystems. For all other transformation products, the potential risk in the field situation could not be established because of the absence of monitoring data. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-183
Number of pages16
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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