New study recruiting farm families in Ireland to measure exposure to glyphosate

File photo
File photo
Farming Independent Team

Farming Independent Team

NUI Galway is to to carry out the first study in Ireland investigating the background level of exposure to the herbicide, glyphosate among families.

The NUI Galway researchers with collaborators from the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine in Bochum, Germany will collect and analyse urine samples from 50 non-farm families and 50 farm families for glyphosate and its main metabolite Aminomethylphosphonic acid.

Each family will be asked to produce one urine sample each (two parents and one child aged between 6–17 years) and complete a questionnaire from each participant.

The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in over 750 products.

Glyphosate is the highest volume herbicide used globally, and extensively used in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds, and is sprayed as a pre-harvest drying treatment on certain food crops.

 It is also widely sprayed in parks, public spaces, lawns, gardens and roadsides as well as for amateur use. Dietary exposure through pesticide residues that remain on fruit, vegetables and grains after spraying, or home use of glyphosate based pesticide products, are thought to be the most common exposure routes among the general population.

This new research fellowship follows on from a four-year study that identified low levels of pesticide exposures among professional gardener’s and amenity horticultural workers in Ireland, led by Exposure Science lecturer Dr Marie Coggins and Dr Alison Connolly from the School of Physics at NUI Galway.

The previous NUI Galway study among amenity horticultural workers conducted human biomonitoring studies where urine samples were collected and analysed for the detection of glyphosate.

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One human biomonitoring study of 50 Irish adults working in horticultural amenity was conducted to estimate background levels of exposure among the Irish population.

Of the 50 samples analysed, 10 (20%) of the participant’s urine samples had detectable trace levels of glyphosate.

The median concentration of the detectable data (10 samples) was 0.87 µg L-1. Though these are low level exposures, it warrants further investigation.

Dr Marie Coggins, Principal Investigator of the Image project and Exposure Science lecturer, School of Physics, NUI Galway, said there is a lack of data across Europe on human exposure to chemicals such as pesticides.

"Although detectable levels were low, studies such as this one are required to fully understand how chemical exposures affect human health, and to inform policy and manage exposure.”

Fellowship recipient, Dr Alison Connolly, School of Physics, NUI Galway said she was delighted to have been awarded the prestigious research award to continue research from my PhD.

The IMAGE project will produce important results on human exposures to a chemical of public concern, as well as highlighting the benefits of using human biomonitoring for the evaluation of human exposures and characterisation of risk for chemicals.”

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