Toward harmonizing global pesticide regulations for surface freshwaters in support of protecting human health

Zijian Li*, Peter Fantke

*Corresponding author for this work

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To promote international collaboration on environmental pollution management and human health protection, we conducted a global-level study on the management of pesticides for surface freshwater quality. Prior to actions being taken in terms of water treatment or remediation, it is essential that clear and definite regulations be disseminated. In our study, 3094 surface freshwater quality standards for 184 different pesticides were recorded from 53 countries and categorized according to pesticide types and standard types, as well as diverse use of freshwater by humans, and compared water quality standards related to human health. Our results indicate large variations in pesticide regulations, standard types (i.e., long- or short-term water quality standards), and related numerical values. With regard to the protection of human health, the 10 most frequently regulated pesticides account for approximately 47% of the total number of standards across 184 considered pesticides. The average occurrence-weighted variations of standard values (i.e., numerical values provided in a standard in terms of residue limits of a given pesticide in water) for the 20 most regulated persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other phase-out pesticides (i.e., pesticides not currently-approved for use in agriculture across various countries) are 4.1 and 2.6 orders of magnitude, respectively, with human-exposure related standard values for some pesticides varying with over 3 orders of magnitude (e.g., lindane). In addition, variations in water quality standard values occurred across standard types (e.g., maximum and average), water use types (e.g., unspecified waters and human consumption), and standard values (e.g., pesticide individuals and groups). We conclude that regulatory inconsistencies emphasize the need for international collaboration on domestic water treatment, environmental management as well as specific water quality standards for the wider range of current-use pesticides, thereby improving global harmonization in support of protecting human health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113909
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Environmental management
  • Water quality standard
  • Political globalization


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