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EFSA Assesses Potential Link between Two Neonicotinoids and Developmental Neurotoxicity

Insecticides, Pesticides

Two neonicotinoid insecticides - acetamiprid and imidacloprid - may affect the developing human nervous system, said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Experts from the Authority propose that some guidance levels for acceptable exposure to the two neonicotinoids be lowered while further research is carried out to provide more reliable data on so-called developmental neurotoxicity (DNT). EFSA’s Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR) calls for the definition of criteria at EU level to trigger submission of mandatory DNT studies as part of the pesticide authorisation process. This could include the development of a comprehensive testing strategy to evaluate the DNT-potential of substances, including all neonicotinoids.

EFSA has delivered its scientific opinion at the request of the European Commission by considering recent research by Kimura-Kuroda[1] and existing data on the potential of acetamiprid and imidacloprid to damage the developing human nervous system - in particular the brain.

The PPR Panel found that acetamiprid and imidacloprid may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory. It concluded that some current guidance levels for acceptable exposure to acetamiprid and imidacloprid may not be protective enough to safeguard against developmental neurotoxicity and should be reduced.  These so-called toxicological reference values provide clear guidance on the level of a substance that consumers can be exposed to in the short- and long-term without an appreciable health risk. Examples include the acute reference dose (ARfD), the acceptable daily intake (ADI) and the acceptable operator exposure level (AOEL).