Results of the Pesticide-CheckUp, a citizens’ science action initiated by the civil society alliance Good Food Good Farming with the support of 10 national partner organisations, reveal that harmful pesticides frequently used in agriculture and public spaces were detected in the hair of every third person tested. 

Between May and August 2022, 300 people across Europe sent in their hair samples to participate in the action. An independent laboratory analysed the samples for the presence of 30 different pesticides (17 herbicides, 11 fungicides and 2 insecticides) currently authorised for agricultural use in the European Union - a small fraction (6.6%) of the total of 455 pesticide active substances currently authorised in Europe. The substances were selected based on their use frequency and potential toxicity for human health and the environment. Glyphosate was not included as it requires a different testing method.

The results of this Pesticide-CheckUp show that pesticide residues can be found in the hair of nearly every third person tested (29%; 87 from 300 participants). Findings furthermore suggest that pesticide residues can be more frequently detected in the hair of farmers and agricultural workers (43,5%), illustrating that farm workers are the ones most exposed to pesticides. In relation to people’s residence, the pesticides tested were more frequently found in the hair of people that live in rural areas (39.5%), followed by those who live in towns (25.9%) and in cities (21.8%). 

The fungicide tebuconazole was found in 7,3% of the samples, and was the second most frequently detected pesticide tested. This substance is identified by the EU authorities as suspected of causing toxicity to reproduction and potential endocrine disruptor. It can also contribute to the development of liver cancer. It is on the EU list of 53 ‘candidates for substitution’ (CfS) and one of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe’s Toxic 12 that should be banned immediately. Six other very toxic pesticides from the EU CfS list were detected in the hair. Other frequently found pesticides included prosulfocarb (herbicide, toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects) and acetamiprid (neonicotinoid insecticide suspected of being neurotoxic).

The project emphasises the need for better EU pesticide regulations to protect farmers, citizens and the environment from the exposure to potentially harmful pesticides.

Several EDC-Free Europe members, including the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Kom Op Tegen Kanker and Phyto-Victimes took part in the hair testing.

The Good Food Good Farming’s demands are clear: it’s time for ambitious regulation of pesticides and more sustainable food and farming systems. They are also pushing for:

  • EU policies that guarantee a drastic reduction of pesticide use and ensure support to farmers in their uptake of agro-ecological farming methods. 
  • EU politicians to deliver policies to drastically reduce pesticide use in agriculture to guarantee the health of people, nature and soils and ensure the survival of insects, especially pollinators that are essential to our food system. 
  • A reduction of pesticides by 80% in EU agriculture, in conformity with the successful European Citizens Initiative “Save bees and farmers”, signed by 1.2 million EU citizens. 

Click here for more resources from the Good Food Good Farming campaign. 

Click here for the joint reaction from the Good Food Good Farming campaign, Slow Food Europe, BirdLife Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe.

Click here to visit testimonies from health advocates that took part in the Pesticide-CheckUp, collected by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).