I'm thinking of moving to a house bordered by frequently sprayed land. What are the health risks? E-mail

People who live near regularly sprayed areas are likely to have higher levels of exposure than those who don’t. Spraying can be frequent, many different sprays may be used, and there is nothing in current law to stop farmers spraying right up to your property. There is also no obligation to inform residents before spraying, or to disclose what is being used. However, you may be able to reach an informal agreement (see Pesticide Spraying – Your Rights), and the current situation may change under new legislation.

Research shows that many pesticides are potentially linked with health problems. However, it’s very hard to say how much exposure you are getting, or how significant this is in relation to health problems such as cancer which have multiple causes. It is therefore very difficult to quantify the risks in any given situation, or to compare one situation with another.


The Chemicals Regulation Directorate, which regulates pesticides in the UK, states that


"As long as farmers follow the conditions of use for the pesticide and the advice in the code of practice...there should be no unacceptable risk from pesticide spray"


PAN UK considers that the system of risk assessment of pesticide ingredients is inadequate for a number of reasons, including:


• Not enough consideration given to mixtures of pesticides
• Human error means that conditions of use will not always be followed
• There is no effective system for picking up unforeseen problems with pesticides


The situation is improving. Under new EU pesticide regulations, new pesticides will not be permitted if they are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic (altering DNA) or to affect reproduction or the hormone system. Existing pesticides with these properties may be used until 2016. PAN UK is pushing for these pesticides to be phased out earlier than the deadline. There are also options for countries to introduce firmer controls to reduce people’s exposure: again, PAN UK is pushing for the government to adopt the most stringent measures.


In the end this comes down to a personal decision on how you feel about the potential risks, and whether, for you, they outweigh the benefits.


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