Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 5983–5991 | Cite as

An ecological risk assessment of pesticides and fish kills in the Sixaola watershed, Costa Rica

  • Beth A. PolidoroEmail author
  • Matthew J. Morra
Short Research and Discussion Article


Along the southeastern coast of Costa Rica, a variety of pesticides are intensively applied to produce export-quality plantains and bananas. In this region, and in other agricultural areas, fish kills are often documented by local residents and/or in the national news. This study examines principal exposure pathways, measured environmental concentrations, and selected toxicity thresholds of the three most prevalent pesticides (chlorpyrifos, terbufos, and difenoconazole) to construct a deterministic risk assessment for fish mortality. Comparisons of observed pesticide concentrations, along with estimated biological effects and observations during actual fish kills, highlight gaps in knowledge in correlating pesticide environmental concentration and toxicity in tropical environments. Observations of fish kill events and measured pesticide concentrations in the field, along with other water quality indicators, suggest that a number of environmental conditions can interact to cause fish mortality and that current species toxicity datasets may not be applicable for estimating toxicological or other synergistic effects, especially in tropical environments.


Chlorpyrifos Hazard quotient Latin America Bananas Water quality Toxicology 



This work was funded in part by NSF-IGERT Grant No. 0114304 and by NSF-EPSCoR. We thank the faculty and staff at the Regional Institute for Studies of Toxic Substances (IRET) at Universidad Nacional in Heredia, especially Clemens Ruepert and Luisa Castillo. We thank Thomas Cahill for his review and comments on the manuscript. We also thank the communities of Sixaola, Margarita, Bribri, and Shiroles for their community-based monitoring and dedication to the project.


  1. Alabaster JS, Lloyd RS (2013) Water Quality Criteria for Freshwater Fish, No. 3117. Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. Albarca L, Ruepert C (1992) Plaguicidas encontrados en el valle de la estrella: estudio preliminar. Tecnología en Marcha 12:31–38Google Scholar
  3. Aragon A, Aragon C, Thorn A (2001) Pests, peasants, and pesticides on the Northern Nicaraguan. Pacific Plain. Int J Occup Environ Health 7:295–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barraza D, Jansen K, van Wendel de Joode B (2011) Pesticide use in banana and plaintain production and risk perception among local actors in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Environ Res 111:708–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borge C, Villalobos V (1994) Talamanca en la Encrucijada. EUNED.Google Scholar
  6. Burns LA (2001) Probabilistic aquatic exposure assessment for pesticides 1. Foundations. National Exposure Research Laboratory USEPA.Google Scholar
  7. Carvalho FP, Villeneuve JP, Cattini C et al (2002) Ecological risk assessment of pesticide residues in coastal lagoons of Nicaragua. J Environ Monit 4:778–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Castillo LE, de la Cruz E, Ruepert C (1997) Ecotoxicology and pesticides in tropical aquatic ecosystems of Central America. Environ Toxicol Chem 16:41–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castillo LE, Ruepert C, Solis E (2000) Pesticide residues in the aquatic environment of banana plantation areas in the north Atlantic zone of Costa Rica. Environ Toxicol Chem 19:1942–1950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Castillo L, Ruepert C, Ramírez F, VanWendel de Joode B, Bravo V, de la Cruz E (2012) Plaguicidas y otros contaminantes. Ponencia preparada para el Decimoctavo Informe Estado de la Nación. Programa Estado de la Nación, San JoséGoogle Scholar
  11. Damm MA, Van den Brink PJ (2010) Implications of differences between temperate and tropical freshwater ecosystems for the ecological risk assessment of pesticides. Ecotoxicology 19:24–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de la Cruz E, Bravo-Durán V, Ramírez F, Castillo LE (2014) Environmental hazards associated with pesticide import into Costa Rica, 1977-2009. J Environ Biol 35:43–55Google Scholar
  13. Dinham B, Malik S (2003) Pesticides and human rights. Int J Occup Environ Health 9:40–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Echeverría-Sáenz S, Mena F, Pinnock M et al (2012) Environmental hazards of pesticides from pineapple crop production in the Río Jiménez watershed (Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica). Science Total Environ 440:106–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fieten KB, Kromhout H, Heederik D, de Joode BVW (2009) Pesticide exposure and respiratory health of indigenous women in Costa Rica. Amer J Epidem 169:1500–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Giesy JP, Solomon KR (2014) Ecological risk assessment for chlorpyrifos in terrestrial and aquatic systems in the United States. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 231: 219–265.Google Scholar
  17. Grant A, Oreamuno R, Serrano A et al. (2004) Inundaciones en la Vertiente Altantica. Informe de Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica, May 2004.Google Scholar
  18. Gunnarson J, Broman D, Jonsson P et al (1995) Interactions between eutrophication and contaminants: towards a new research concept for the European aquatic environment. Ambio 24:383–385Google Scholar
  19. Henriques W, Jeffers RD, Lacher TE, Kendall RJ (1997) Agrochemical use on banana plantations in Latin America: perspectives on ecological risk. Environ Toxicol Chem 16:91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hernandez CE, Witter SG (1996) Evaluating and managing the environmental impact of banana production in Costa Rica: a systems approach. Ambio 25:171–178Google Scholar
  21. Hernandez C, Witter SG, Hall CAS et al. (2000) The Costa Rican banana industry: can it be sustainable? pp. 563-593 In Hall CAS [Ed.], Quantifying Sustainable Development. Academic PresssGoogle Scholar
  22. Howard PH (1991) Ed. Handbook of environmental fate and exposure data for organic chemicals. Vol 3: pesticides. Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, MI, pp 5–13Google Scholar
  23. Huan Z, Xu Z, Lv D, Xie D, Luo J (2013) Dissipation and residues of difenoconazole and azoxystrobin in bananas and soil in two agro-climatic zones of China. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 91:734–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huckins JN, Manuweera GK, Petty JD et al (1993) Lipid-containing semipermeable membrane devices for monitoring organic contaminants in water. Environ Sci Tech 27:2489–2496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IRET (Regional Institute for Studies of Toxic Substances (1999) Manual de Plaguicidas: Guia para America Central, 2nd Ed. EUNA, Heredia, Costa Rica.Google Scholar
  26. IRET (Regional Institute for Studies of Toxic Substances) (2000) Reducción del escurrimiento de plaguicidas al mar caribe: Informe Nacional: Costa Rica GEF/11000-99-04/PNUMA. Dec. 2000.Google Scholar
  27. Kapp GB (1989) Perfil ambiental de la zona Baja de Talamanca, Costa Rica. Turrialba, Costa Rica CATIE. 97 p. (Informe Técnico No.155).Google Scholar
  28. Kumar A, Colton MBM, Springer M, Trama FA (2013) Macroinvertebrate communities as bioindicators of water quality in conventional and organic irrigated rice fields in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Ecol Indic 29:68–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kwok KWH, Lueng KMY, Lui GSG et al (2007) Comparison of tropical and temperate freshwater animal species’ acute sensitivities to chemicals: implications for deriving safe extrapolation factors. Integr Environ Assess Manage 3:49–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marin DH, Romero RA, Guzman M et al (2003) Black Sigatoka: an increasing threat to banana cultivation. Plant Dis 87:208–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matlock RB, de la Cruz R (2002) An inventory of parasitic Hymenoptera in banana plantations under two pesticide regimes. Agri Ecosyst Environ 93:147–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mayer FL, Marking LL, Bills TD et al (1994) Physiochemical factors affecting toxicity in freshwater: hardness, pH and temperature. In: Hamelink JL, Landrum PF, Bergman HL, Benson WH (eds) Bioavailability: physical, chemical and biological interactions. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 5–22Google Scholar
  33. Mekonnen Y, Agonafir T (2002) Pesticide sprayers’ knowledge, attitude and practice of pesticide use on agricultural farms of Ethiopia. Occup Med 52:311–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mezin LC, Hale RC (2004) The effect of humic acids on toxicity of DDT and chlorpyrifos to freshwater and estuarine invertebrates. Environ Toxicol Chem 23:583–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Municipality of Talamanca (2003) Plan local de desarrollo: 2003:2013. Municipality of Talamanca, Bribri, Costa Rica.Google Scholar
  36. PAN (Pesticide Action Network Database) (2014) Accessed December 2014
  37. Petty JD, Orazio CE, Huckins JN et al (2000) Considerations involved with the use of semipermeable membrane devices for monitoring of environmental contaminants. J Chrom A 879:83–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Phillips TA, Summerfelt RC, Wu J et al (2003) Toxicity of chlorpyrifos adsorbed on humic colloids to larval walley (Stizostedion vitreum). Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 45:258–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Polidoro BA (2007). Ecological risk assessment of current-use pesticides in the Sixaola Watershed, Costa Rica. Doctoral dissertation, University of Idaho.Google Scholar
  40. Polidoro BA, Dahlquist R, Castillo LE et al (2008) Pesticide application practices, pest knowledge, and cost-benefits of plantain production in the Bribri-Cabecar Indigenous Territories, Costa Rica. Environ Res 108:98–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Polidoro BA, Morra MJ, Ruepert CR et al (2009) Pesticide sequestration in passive samplers (SPMDs): considerations for deployment time, biofouling, and stream flow in a tropical watershed. J Environ Monit 11:1866–1874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Preston BL (2002) Indirect effects in aquatic ecotoxicology: implications for ecological risk assessment. Environ Manage 29:311–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Racke KD (1993) Environmental fate of chlorpyrifos. Rev Environ Contamin Toxicol 131:1–154Google Scholar
  44. Raylea R, Hoverman J (2006) Assessing the ecology in ecotoxicology: a review and synthesis in freshwater systems. Ecol Let 9:1157–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Readman JW, Kwong LLW, Mee LD et al (1992) Persistent organophosphorus pesticides in tropical marine environments. Mar Poll Bull 21:398–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Traas TP, Janse JH, van den Brink PJ et al (2004) A freshwater food web model for the combined effects of nutrients and insecticide stress and subsequent recovery. Environ Toxicol Chem 23:521–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. US EPA (2014) Ecotox Database., accessed December 2014.
  48. USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) (1992) Framework for ecological risk assessment EPA/630/R-92/001. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C, USAGoogle Scholar
  49. USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) (1998) Guidelines for ecological risk assessment. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., USAGoogle Scholar
  50. Van den Brink PJ, Sureshkumar SN, Daam MA et al. (2003) Environmental and human risks of pesticide use in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Alterra-rapport 789, MAMAS Report Series No. 3/2003. Alterra, Green World Research, Wageningen, Netherlands.Google Scholar
  51. Van den Brink PJ, Alexander AC, Desrosiers M et al (2011) Traits-based approaches in bioassessment and ecological risk assessment: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Integrated Environ Assess Manage 7(2):198–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Versteeg D, Belanger S, Carr G (1999) Understanding single-species and model ecosystem sensitivity: data-based comparison. Environ Toxicol Chem 18:1329–1346Google Scholar
  53. Vrana B, Schuurmann G (2002) Calibrating the uptake kinetics of semipermeable membrane devices in water: impact of hydrodynamics. Environ Sci Tech 36:290–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vrana B, Mills GA, Allan IJ et al (2005) Passive sampling techniques for monitoring pollutants in water. Trends Anal Chem 24:845–868CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang K, Wu JX, Zhang HY (2012) Dissipation of difenoconazole in rice, paddy soil, and paddy water under field conditions. Ecotoxicol Environ Safety 86:111–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Warren N, Allan IJ, Carter JE et al (2003) Pesticides and other micro-organic contaminants in freshwater sedimentary environments—a review. App Geochem 18:159–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wesseling C, van Wendel de Joode B, Monge P (2001) Pesticide related illness among banana workers in Costa Rica: a comparison between 1993 and 1996. Int J Occup Environ Health 7:90–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wesseling C, Corriols M, Bravo V (2005) Acute pesticide poisoning and pesticide registration in Central America. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 207:S697–S705CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and SciencesArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

Personalised recommendations