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A Method to Measure the Environmental Impact of Pesticides

The EIQ Equation

The formula for determining the EIQ value of individual pesticides is listed below and is the average of the farm worker, consumer, and ecological components.

EIQ={C[(DT*5)+(DT*P)]+[(C*((S+P)/2)*SY)+(L)]+[(F*R)+(D*((S+P)/2)*3)+(Z*P*3)+(B*P*5)]}/3

DT = dermal toxicity, C = chronic toxicity, SY = systemicity, F = fish toxicity, L = leaching potential, R = surface loss potential, D = bird toxicity, S = soil half-life, Z = bee toxicity, B = beneficial arthropod toxicity, P = plant surface half-life.

Farm worker risk is defined as the sum of applicator exposure (DT* 5) plus picker exposure (DT*P) times the long-term health effect or chronic toxicity (C). Chronic toxicity of a specific pesticide is calculated as the average of the ratings from various long-term laboratory tests conducted on small mammals. These tests are designed to determine potential reproductive effects (ability to produce offspring), teratogenic effects (deformities in unborn offspring), mutagenic effects (permanent changes in hereditary material such as genes and chromosomes), and oncogenic effects (tumor growth). Within the farmworker component, applicator exposure is determined by multiplying the dermal toxicity (DT) rating to small laboratory mammals (rabbits or rats) times a coefficient of five to account for the increased risk associated with handling concentrated pesticides. Picker exposure is equal to dermal toxicity (DT) times the rating for plant surface residue half-life potential (the time required for one-half of the chemical to break down). This residue factor takes into account the weathering of pesticides that occurs in agricultural systems and the days to harvest restrictions that may be placed on certain pesticides.

The consumer component is the sum of consumer exposure potential (C*((S+P)/2)*SY) plus the potential groundwater effects (L) . Groundwater effects are placed in the consumer component because they are more of a human health issue (drinking well contamination) than a wildlife issue. Consumer exposure is calculated as chronic toxicity (C) times the average for residue potential in soil and plant surfaces (because roots and other plant parts are eaten) times the systemic potential rating of the pesticide (the pesticide's ability to be absorbed by plants).

The ecological component of the model is composed of aquatic and terrestrial effects and is the sum of the effects of the chemicals on fish (F*R), birds (D*((S+P)/2)*3), bees (Z*P*3), and beneficial arthropods(B*P*5). The environmental impact of pesticides on aquatic systems is determined by multiplying the chemical toxicity to fish rating times the surface runoff potential of the specific pesticide (the runoff potential takes into account the half-life of the chemical in surface water).

The impact of pesticides on terrestrial systems is determined by summing the toxicities of the chemicals to birds, bees, and beneficial arthropods. Because terrestrial organisms are more likely to occur in commercial agricultural settings than fish, more weight is given to the pesticidal effects on these terrestrial organisms. Impact on birds is measured by multiplying the rating of toxicity to birds by the average half-life on plant and soil surfaces times three. Impact on bees is measured by taking the pesticide toxicity ratings to bees times the half-life on plant surfaces times three. The effect on beneficial arthropods is determined by taking the pesticide toxicity rating to beneficial natural enemies times the half-life on plant surfaces times five. Because arthropod natural enemies spend almost all of their life in agroecosystem communities (while birds and bees are somewhat transient), their exposure to the pesticides, in theory, is greater. To adjust for this increased exposure, the pesticide impact on beneficial arthropods is multiplied by five. Mammalian wildlife toxicity is not included in the terrestrial component of the equation because mammalian exposure (farm worker and consumer) is already included in the equation, and these health effects are the results of tests conducted on small mammals such as rats, mice, rabbits, and dogs.

After the data on individual factors were collected, pesticides were grouped by classes (fungicides, insecticides/miticides, and herbicides), and calculations were conducted for each pesticide. When toxicological data were missing, the average for each environmental factor within a class was determined, and this average value was substituted for the missing values. Thus, missing data did not affect the relative ranking of a pesticide within a class.

Table 2 lists over 120 pesticides by chemical class, fungicides, insecticides/miticides, and herbicides.

Table 2: List of Pesticides

download entire Table 2 as 207k pdf file

download Table 2, Part 1, Various Pesticides, as 64k pdf file

download Table 2, Part 2, Fungicides, as 96k pdf file

download Table 2, Part 3, Herbicides, as 116k pdf file

download Table 2, Part 4, Insecticides, as 96k pdf file

The values of individual effects of each pesticide (applicator, picker, consumer, groundwater, aquatic, bird, bee, beneficials), the major components of the equation (farm worker, consumer, and ecological) and the average EIQ values are presented in the tables. The tables also include the factors in the evaluation process that contained missing data. Less confidence should be placed on the EIQ values of pesticides that have many data gaps and more confidence placed on EIQ values with few or no data gaps. Using the tables, comparisons of environmental toxicity of a given weight (pounds, grams, etc.) of the individual active ingredients can be made within a class of compounds. Field comparisons should not be made with these data. Other considerations, such as the percent of active ingredient in a formulated product and the dose required to provide control, need to be assessed before the desirable or least toxic pesticide choice can be made in the field.