Traces of banned pesticides detected in birds' blood

Traces of banned pesticides detected in birds' blood
Credit: Belga

Pesticide concentrations have been found in the blood of various birds, despite the ban on certain substances, Natuurpunt said on Wednesday.

This could indicate that these substances are being used illegally, the environmental organisation noted, citing a recent French study.

It was long thought that neonicotinoids were less harmful to the environment than other types of pesticides. However, evidence accumulated in recent years shows that these substances also have effects on “non-target species” such as bees.

This has led to the banning of many of these substances in the European Union in recent years.

A recent French study has shown the presence of significant concentrations of neonicotinoids in the blood of agricultural birds such as buntings, nightingales, partridges and hen harriers, Natuurpunt points out.

These include three substances that have been explicitly banned for three years now in the study area.

Pesticides are substances that are, in principle, quickly eliminated, so their presence in the blood indicates that they have been absorbed recently, which could indicate illegal pesticide use.

However, the most plausible reason for the presence of these substances in birds, according to Natuurpunt, is that neonicotinoids remain in the environment much longer than previously thought and can therefore be absorbed by granivorous birds several years after their use.

Cats and dogs also sometimes spread these pesticides, as they are used in flea products.

The environmental organisation therefore advocates a critical approach to neonicotinoids, which have been banned in the EU since 2018, but for which exceptions are regularly granted.

Natuurpunt also castigates Belgium, as it is the world’s largest exporter of neonicotinoids outside Europe.

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