Understanding health impacts for aquatic wildlife exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides

Theme: Environmental Hazards & Pollution

Primary Supervisor:

Thomas Miller

Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel

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Secondary Supervisor:

Edwin Routledge

Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel

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Project Description:

Pesticides have long been known to cause many issues in the environment due to their innate design and intended action, which often negatively affects nontarget organisms due to the broad-spectrum nature of these chemicals. A specific pesticide class, neonicotinoids, have been widely investigated for the potential impact they have on pollinating species. The presence of these pesticides, whilst regarded less toxic than other pesticide classes, have led to adverse effects on development, behaviour and reproduction across different pollinators. These impacts resulted in the recent EU-wide ban on outdoor use for three neonicotinoids in 2018. However, since the ban, these compounds have still been measured in the aquatic environment including water, sediment and biota samples. The potential of these compounds to cause harm to nontarget organisms such as insects, crustaceans and molluscans in freshwater habitats has not been well-characterised and several knowledge gaps have been identified that limit our understanding of the risk these chemicals pose. The project will investigate the uptake and elimination of these chemicals to understand the potential accumulation and importantly characterise the biotransformation to identify key biotransformation products that may also lead to adverse outcomes. Moreover, low dose concentrations have been linked to impairment of behaviour, therefore the project will establish cause-effect relationships through phenotypic anchoring of the accumulated dose. By establishing these links and improving our understanding of the risk we will better protect the environment from the impact of chemical pollution.

Policy Impact of Research:

Chemical pollution has gained much attention with the United Nations now recognising chemical pollution as an environmental emergency and is being treated as part of a triple threat to the environment. The results will have potential to improve risk assessments, reduce animal testing and inform long-term policy regarding chemical authorisation.

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