Regulation of non-relevant metabolites of plant protection products in drinking and groundwater in the EU: Current status and way forward

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2015 Oct;73(1):276-86. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.06.023. Epub 2015 Jul 17.


Non-relevant metabolites are defined in the EU regulation for plant protection product authorization and a detailed definition of non-relevant metabolites is given in an EU Commission DG Sanco (now DG SANTE - Health and Food Safety) guidance document. However, in water legislation at EU and member state level non-relevant metabolites of pesticides are either not specifically regulated or diverse threshold values are applied. Based on their inherent properties, non-relevant metabolites should be regulated based on substance-specific and toxicity-based limit values in drinking and groundwater like other anthropogenic chemicals. Yet, if a general limit value for non-relevant metabolites in drinking and groundwater is favored, an application of a Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) concept for Cramer class III compounds leads to a threshold value of 4.5 μg L(-1). This general value is exemplarily shown to be protective for non-relevant metabolites, based on individual drinking water limit values derived for a set of 56 non-relevant metabolites. A consistent definition of non-relevant metabolites of plant protection products, as well as their uniform regulation in drinking and groundwater in the EU, is important to achieve legal clarity for all stakeholders and to establish planning security for development of plant protection products for the European market.

Keywords: Drinking water; Groundwater; Non-relevant metabolite; Pesticide; Regulation; TTC; Threshold of toxicological concern.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Europe
  • Groundwater / chemistry*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / chemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods
  • Water Supply / methods


  • Pesticides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical