Selection of pesticides to reduce human and environmental health risks: a global guideline and minimum pesticides list.
Background: Pesticides present widespread risks to human and environmental health, yet selection criteria for end-users that factor in differences in risk between compounds are scant. We developed a system to classify pesticide risks and hazards with respect to human and environmental health and produce a minimum (lower risk) pesticide list. Methods: We classified 659 pesticides by acute and chronic risks to human health (eg, respiratory and carcinogenic effects) and by environmental risks, including biomagnification and atmospheric ozone depletion and risks to aquatic life, terrestrial wildlife, and pollinators. From this analysis, we produced a guideline for selection of lower risk pesticides. The classification of highly hazardous and high-risk compounds has been tested in more than a million farm households in the tropics, and in US integrated pest management (IPM) programmes. The full classification, including the minimum pesticide list, has been used in management of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) throughout Africa and Asia. Findings: Our analysis developed a stand-alone guideline for selection of lower risk pesticides. When classifying pesticides in current use against the fall armyworm in Africa, our guideline identified chemicals that are effective and of lower risk to human and environmental health. We argue that a minimum (lower risk) pesticides list, which meets IPM needs, could be developed from our classification system. Interpretation: As far as we are aware, our analysis is the first to propose a method for implementing the idea of a minimum pesticide list and the first to outline lower risk candidate compounds. Currently accepted criteria for defining highly hazardous pesticides do not adequately protect human bystanders, aquatic life, terrestrial wildlife, and pollinators.