Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 21–70

Atmospheric Dispersion of Current-Use Pesticides: A Review of the Evidence from Monitoring Studies


DOI: 10.1023/A:1005293020536

Cite this article as:
van Dijk, H.F.G. & Guicherit, R. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution (1999) 115: 21. doi:10.1023/A:1005293020536


Recently, evidence has accumulated that the extensive use of modern pesticides results in their presence in the atmosphere at many places throughout the world. In Europe over 80 current-use pesticides have been detected in rain and 30 in air. Similar observations have been made in North America. The compounds most often looked for and detected are the organochlorine insecticide lindane and triazine herbicides, especially atrazine. However, acetanilide and phenoxyacid herbicides, as well as organophosphorus insecticides have also frequently been found in rain and air. Concentrations in air normally range from a few pg/m3 to many ng/m3. Concentrations in rain generally range from a few ng/L to several µg/L. In fog even higher concentrations are observed. Deposition varies between a few mg/ha/y and more than 1 g/ha/y per compound. However, these estimates are usually based on the collection and analysis of (bulk) precipitation and do not include dry particle deposition and gas exchange. Nevertheless, model calculations, analysis of plant tissue, and first attempts to measure dry deposition in a more representative way, all indicate that total atmospheric deposition probably does not normally exceed a few g/ha/y. So far, little attention has been paid to the presence of transformation products of modern pesticides in the atmosphere, with the exception of those of triazine herbicides, which have been looked for and found frequently.

Generally, current-use pesticides are only detected at elevated concentrations in air and rain during the application season. The less volatile and more persistent ones, such as lindane, but to some extent also triazines, are present in the atmosphere in low concentrations throughout the year. In agricultural areas, the presence of modern pesticides in the atmosphere can be explained by the crops grown and pesticides used on them. They are also found in the air and rain in areas where they are not used, sometimes even in remote places, just like their organochlorine predecessors. Concentrations and levels are generally much lower there. These data suggest that current-use pesticides can be transported through the atmosphere over distances of tens to hundreds, and sometimes even more than a thousand kilometres. The relative importance of these atmospheric inputs varies greatly. For mountainous areas and remote lakes and seas, the atmosphere may constitute the sole route of contamination by pesticides. In coastal waters, on the other hand, riverine inputs may prevail. To date, little is known about the ecological significance of these aerial inputs.

atmospheric transport current-use pesticides deposition field measurements long-range transport monitoring organochlorine pesticides pesticides rainwater 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Council of the NetherlandsHagueThe Netherlands
  2. 2.TNO Institute of Environmental Sciences, Energy Research and Process InnovationApeldoomthe Netherlands

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