Occurrence of Pesticides in Water, Sediments, and Fish Tissues in a Lake Surrounded by Agricultural Lands: Concerning Risks to Humans and Ecological Receptors
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Lake Vela (Littoral Centre of Portugal) is considered a natural habitat with community interest and consequently was included in the Natura 2000 Network. However, this freshwater ecosystem has been potentially exposed to diffuse pollution generated by agricultural and livestock activities, which seriously compromise its ecological balance. As part of the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) proposed for Lake Vela, this study aimed to evaluate the occurrence of pesticides in different compartments: surface water, groundwater, sediments, and fish tissues. Moreover, to assess potential concerning effects on ecosystem and human health, the measured concentrations of pesticides were compared with regulatory and toxicological benchmarks. The results confirmed the presence of high concentrations of pesticides, including organochloride pesticides banned decades ago, in surface water, groundwater, and sediment. The measured concentrations of pesticides, compared with toxicological benchmarks, indicated that harmful effects are likely for aquatic species due to the presence of alachlor, aldrin, and dieldrin. Additionally, the concentrations of pesticides detected in groundwater were also above the recommended safety levels for drinking water, which constitutes a concern for the local population’s health. Results also showed an accumulation of alachlor in predator and benthic fish species which could represent a risk to human consumers and particularly to the regular fish predators (e.g., otters and birds). This study, as the first exposure characterization performed on the Lake Vela system, constitutes valuable and useful information for the ERA process. Although this preliminary assessment of risks should be continued and confirmed through a weight-of-evidence approach, it had already unraveled how concerning are the problems in this ecosystem and the urgency of implementing restoration measures to guaranty its sustainability. Furthermore, this study reinforces the importance of evaluating similar freshwater ecosystems that are also highly threatened by diffuse pollution.
KeywordsDiffuse pollution Pesticides Ecological risk assessment Aquatic ecosystems Human health
Nelson Abrantes was recipient of a grant from the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT, Portugal; SFRH/BD/10388/2002). Authors would like to thank the farmers from Bom Sucesso for their helpful information about agricultural practices.
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