PestiRiv: a study on the exposure to pesticides of people living near vineyards

As of October 2021, ANSES and Santé publique France are launching PestiRiv, a study to understand and shed light on exposure to pesticides in people living near vineyards. This study conducted in metropolitan France will involve urine and hair measurements from 3,350 participants spread out across six regions, combined with measurements in air, dust and garden fruit and vegetables. Food, occupational activities and domestic uses will also be documented. The results will enable the sources that most contribute to exposure to be identified so that preventive measures can be strengthened. 

In France, grapevines are one of the crops most frequently treated with plant protection products and are often located in close proximity to homes. However, few data are available on the actual exposure of people living near crops, in particular grapevines. For the first time, the PestiRiv study will measure exposure to pesticides in wine-growing and non-wine-growing areas.

What are the objectives of PestiRiv?

The primary objective is to find out whether exposure to pesticides differs between people living near grapevines and those living far from any crops. 

The study also has other complementary objectives: 

  • more precisely determine sources of exposure to pesticides; 
  • study the effect of the distance between homes and grapevines on exposure;
  • study the links between the various routes of exposure and their relationship with contamination levels;
  • describe changes in exposure over the course of a year.

What will PestiRiv involve?

The study is being carried out with 3,350 randomly selected participants, including adults between the ages of 18 and 79 and children over the age of three, living in: 

  • wine-growing areas: within 500 metres of grapevines and more than 1,000 metres from other crops;
  • areas far from any crops: more than 1,000 metres from any crop. 

The participants will be spread out across more than 250 study zones, representing contrasting local situations, in six regions: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. 

The PestiRiv study will focus on two periods of the year: 

  • from October 2021 to February 2022, when grapevine treatments with plant protection products are the least frequent;
  • from March to August 2022, when these treatments are the most frequent.  

A study tested in advance 

The first phase of the PestiRiv study was conducted by Santé publique France and ANSES in four municipalities in the Grand Est and Nouvelle-Aquitaine regions. The goal was to ensure the participants’ involvement and adapt the protocol if necessary, by testing the methodology and the acceptability of the study among local residents and stakeholders, identifying any reasons for refusal and the expectations of the individuals contacted. In the 72 households that took part, from 28 October to 21 December 2019, the following were observed:

  • Close compliance with the protocol by the participants, including children;
  • A good understanding of the questionnaires, although some have since been adapted and simplified;
  • Participants who in general were highly motivated, because they lived very close to grapevines, were themselves wine-growers or from families of wine-growers, or knew people around them with health problems.

This first phase of the PestiRiv study clarified the participants’ expectations and enabled the study protocol to be adapted to improve its nationwide deployment.

What information will be collected?

Exposure to pesticides will be measured in both humans and the environment with:

  • The collection of urine and hair samples to measure levels of pesticides in the participants’ bodies;
  • The collection of dust and indoor air from the participants’ homes and of fruit and vegetables from some of their gardens;
  • Pesticide measurements in outdoor air taken in certain wine-growing areas and other areas far from any crops. 

These measurements will be accompanied by: 

  • Questionnaires sent to the participants to identify sources potentially contributing to their exposure to pesticides;
  • A description of the weather conditions and topographic features potentially influencing the spread of plant protection products in the environment;
  • An analysis of the agricultural context in the study areas, for example the probability of grapevine treatments;
  • The use of national water monitoring data to determine how water locally contributes to consumer exposure. 

These measurements will concern around 50 substances that are commonly used in viticulture, are sold in large quantities, and have the highest toxicity and environmental persistence. 

The measurements in the environment will be taken in collaboration with the French Scientific and Technical Centre for Building (CSTB), the National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS), Atmo France, and the approved air quality monitoring associations (AASQAs).

How will the results be used?

PestiRiv will seek to identify the sources that most contribute to pesticide exposure and determine how living distance from grapevines, the season, and the habits and behaviours of individuals may impact this exposure. Better understanding the origin of this exposure will help identify ways of limiting it and therefore avoid the potential health effects of these products. This study is part of a series of scientific work supported by ANSES and Santé publique France with the aim of improving knowledge on pesticides and their actual health effects.

The PestiRiv study is part of the Ecophyto 2+ plan. It primarily benefits from Ecophyto funds and funding from Santé publique France and ANSES.  ANSES is funding this study through the phytopharmacovigilance scheme it coordinates.