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Stickers against the SDHI on a billboard in the village of Langouët in Brittany. Damien MEYER / AFP

The SDHI is a fungicide used in agriculture, but in recent years the question of its effect on humans has been raised, and the publication of a new study reinforces doubts about its toxicity.

To function, an organism needs energy. In a cell, it is the mitochondria that deals with it. For this, she will perform many chemical processes. In this chain, there is an essential link called SDH enzymes.

The SDHI implicated in this study are inhibitors of these enzymes. They neutralize SDH and thus prevent all the chemical processes necessary for mitochondria. The cell then has no more energy and it dies. SDHIs are therefore used as fungicides in agriculture to kill fungi that are harmful to crops.

Health agencies must take over

But here, this mechanism of mitochondrial energy production is common to all organisms. We know for example that earthworms or bees suffer the effects of the SDHI.

With this new research, scientists have shown that human cells can also be affected. This effect has been observed in the laboratory, in vitro, under specific conditions and doses, but the hazard is identified.

It remains to estimate the risk, the levels of exposure. It is now up to the health agencies to take over. French ANSES is due to take a decision early next year on this issue.