Tracking pesticide fate in conventional banana cultivation in Costa Rica: A disconnect between protecting ecosystems and consumer health

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Feb 1;613-614:1250-1262. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.172. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


Conventional banana cultivation in Costa Rica relies on heavy pesticide use. While pesticide residues in exported bananas do not generally represent a safety concern for consumers abroad, ecosystem and human health in producing regions are not likewise protected. In Costa Rica, most studies on pesticide residues in the environment are snapshots, limiting our ability to identify temporal dynamics that can inform risk mitigation strategies. To help bridge this gap, we created a dynamic multimedia model for the Caño Azul River drainage area, which is heavily influenced by banana and pineapple plantations. This model estimates chemical concentrations in water, air, soil, sediments, and banana plants through time, based on pesticide properties and emission patterns and on variable environmental conditions. Case studies for three representative chemicals-the herbicide diuron, the nematicide ethoprofos, and the fungicide epoxiconazole-show that concentrations in fruit remain below EU and US maximum residue limits set to ensure consumer health, while those in the environment are highly variable, reaching peak concentrations in water that can exceed thresholds for ecosystem health. Critical research needs, including incorporating sediment dynamics and the effects of adjuvants on the properties and transport of active ingredients into multimedia models, were identified.

Keywords: Ecosystem health; Environmental justice; Export crops; MRL; Pesticides.

MeSH terms

  • Costa Rica
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Musa*
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pesticide Residues