Drinking water taken from the tap. (illustration) - SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Tap water contains traces of pesticides and suspected endocrine disruptors, denounces Wednesday the association Future Generations, which campaigns against pesticides in agriculture. Without questioning the quality of this water, temper the authorities. Future Generations has peeled the analyzes carried out by the Regional Health Agencies (ARS), which control the quality of tap water.

"The Ministry of Health communicates each year about situations where the standard for drinking water is exceeded. We wanted to go see the nature of the molecules, whether it is of concern or not", explains François Veillerette, president of the association. In 2018, "90.6% of the population was permanently supplied with water meeting regulatory quality limits for pesticides," according to the ministry.

8.835 analyzes

Drinking water, "the most controlled food in France", meets very strict standards, explains Maryllis Macé, director of the Water Information Center, which represents professionals in water management. For pesticides, "one should not exceed 0.1 microgram per liter and per molecule" and 0.5 microgram any substance, she says. 

Future generations retained 8,835 analyzes "having revealed the presence of at least one pesticide residue beyond the limits of quantification", on approximately 273,500 samples. This shows "15,990 individual quantifications of pesticides", of which 38.5% are CMRs, 56.8% of suspected endocrine disruptors, according to Future Generations. The percentage rises to 78.5% by accounting for molecules having one or the other of these properties or both, continues the association.

Effects still poorly understood

The health effects of endocrine disruptors are still poorly understood. They worry because they can act at very low levels of exposure and researchers suspect "cocktail effects" in the presence of several substances. "The proportion of problematic products is really important", criticizes François Veillerette, who regrets the impossibility of comparing the departments, the same substances not being sought everywhere.

Among the ten most quantified molecules, seven have been banned since the 2000s, including metolachlor and atrazine, herbicides, or even oxadixyl, a fungicide. This persistence is explained by the time necessary for polluted waters to reach the water tables. "We pay for the mistakes of the past," says François Veillerette. Some of these molecules are the same found in cases of non-compliance with regulatory limits in 2018, such as atrazine or metolachlor.

The Ministry of Health specifies that almost all situations of exceeding the quality limit in 2018 "were limited in concentration and / or in time, not requiring a restriction on the use of tap water for the drink ". France has launched several plans, known as Ecophyto, to reduce the consumption of phytosanitary products in agriculture, but they ended in failure: this consumption increased by 21% in 2018, when it was supposed to decrease by half in ten years, despite 400 million euros spent.


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  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Pesticides
  • Pollution
  • Water
  • Planet