Launch of PestiRiv : an original study on the exposure to pesticides of people living near vineyards

A large part of the rural population in France lives in wine-growing regions. Are these people particularly exposed to the plant protection products used and if so, how? Today, to answer these questions, Santé publique France and ANSES are launching PestiRiv, the first large-scale study aiming to better understand and shed light on exposure to pesticides in people living near vineyards. Measurements taken from 3,350 individuals in six French regions will enable the sources that most contribute to pesticide exposure to be objectively identified so that appropriate preventive measures can be taken.

Measuring exposure to pesticides taking all sources into account

Although the French population and public authorities are concerned about the health effects of pesticides, few data are currently available in France on the actual exposure of people living near crops, and near vineyards in particular. PestiRiv is therefore the first study undertaken throughout metropolitan France to explore exposure to pesticides in wine-growing and non-wine-growing areas. It is an original study in that it will investigate the population's actual level of exposure, assessed through biological sampling, to all possible exposure sources: air, food (including water), occupational activities including agriculture, and domestic uses.

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

A large-scale study: 3,350 participants, two field study periods

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) or 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.  

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. 

Measurements will be taken in environmental media for around 50 substances.

A study tested in advance and accepted:  56% of participants are interested in the topic

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.

A study in line with the work of ANSES and Santé publique France 

The PestiRiv study is part of a series of scientific undertakings supported by ANSES and Santé publique France with the aim of improving knowledge on pesticides and their actual health effects. 

Through the national biomonitoring programme (ENNS , ELFE , Esteban , etc.), run and implemented by Santé publique France, the exposure of the French population to various pollutants, including pesticides, is assessed by measuring concentration levels in samples (urine, blood, hair); work is also undertaken as part of the programme to determine how exposure occurs and issue recommendations for reducing it. 

GEOCAP-AGRI, also implemented by Santé publique France in partnership with Inserm-Epicea UMR 1153, with funding from ANSES, studies cancer risk in children in relation to the proximity of certain classes of crops. 

The national exploratory pesticide campaign (CNEP), conducted by ANSES, INERIS and Atmo France, the network of air quality monitoring associations, provided a snapshot of substances found in outdoor air (except areas with local emission sources) and their concentration levels in metropolitan and overseas France. 

All of these data are used as part of the national phytopharmacovigilance scheme for the monitoring of adverse effects related to the use of plant protection products. This scheme run by ANSES aims to collect data and identify signals and alerts that require a national response.