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Impacts of climate change on indirect human exposure to pathogens and chemicals from agriculture/Impactos das mudancas climaticas sobre a exposicao humana indireta a elementos patogenicos e quimicos da agricultura.


Weather and climate factors are known to affect the transmission of water- and vector-borne infectious diseases as well as the transport of chemicals around the environment. Climate change may therefore have important impacts on the dispersion of pathogens and chemicals in the environment. In addition, changes in climate are likely to affect the types of pathogens occurring as well as the amounts and types of chemical used for a range of scenarios. Future risks of pathogens and chemicals could therefore be very different than today, so it is important that we begin to assess the implications of climate change for changes in human exposures to pathogens and chemicals and the subsequent health impacts in the near term and in the future. Therefore, in this review, we discuss how health risks might change by exploring the current scientific evidence for health effects resulting from environmental exposure to pathogens and chemicals arising from agriculture; the potential impacts of climate change on the inputs of chemicals and pathogens to agricultural systems; and the potential impacts of climate change on human exposure pathways to pathogens and chemicals in agricultural systems. Finally, we provide recommendations on approaches to mitigate any adverse increases in health risks.

In this review we focus on the U.K. agricultural environment, but some of the conclusions are applicable and relevant to other countries in temperate areas as well as sectors other than agriculture. We focus on environmental routes of exposure, and do not consider occupational exposure pathways or direct application of chemicals to food animals.

Effects of agricultural chemicals and pathogens on human health

Humans may be exposed to agriculturally derived chemicals and pathogens in the environment (i.e., air, soil, water, sediment) by a number of routes, including the consumption of crops that have been treated with pesticides or have taken up contaminants from soils; livestock that have accumulated contaminants through the food chain; fish exposed to contaminants in the aquatic environment; and groundwater and surface waters used for drinking water. Exposure may also occur via the inhalation of particulates or volatiles, or from direct contact with water bodies or agricultural soils (e.g., during recreation). The importance of each exposure pathway will depend on the pathogen or chemical type (Table 1). The main environmental pathways from the farm to the wider population will be from consumption of contaminated drinking waters and food. In the United Kingdom, vector, aerial, and direct contact pathways are currently of less importance to the general population.

Evidence for adverse human health effects from agricultural contaminants comes from epidemiologic studies (occupational and general population studies), case and outbreak reports, and toxicologic assessments. Attributing health effects in the general population to specific agricultural contaminants is often difficult because multiple chemicals and pathogens are in the environment, with multiple routes whereby they may reach humans. Some naturally occurring chemicals are also harmful (e.g., mycotoxins, microcystin), which further complicates the picture.

Although often inconclusive, several studies have associated different health outcomes with exposure to chemicals from agriculture. For example, Parkinson's disease has been linked with exposure to pesticides (1), and studies have suggested that repeated exposure to low levels of organophosphates may result in biochemical effects in agricultural farmworkers (2), as well as enhanced risks of certain cancers, such as leukemias or lymphoma. Studies in North America have associated chlorphenoxy herbicide exposure with circulatory and respiratory malformation, congenital abnormalities, urogenital and musculoskeletal anomalies, and changes in the male:female sex ratio of offspring (3).

Outbreaks of waterborne disease from the contamination of water supplies with animal waste (often associated with water treatment failures) remain an important public health problem (4). Cryptosporidium transmission in humans has been linked to areas where manure is being applied to land (5). There is also good evidence that heavy rainfall increases the risk of sporadic cases of Cryptosporidium in England (6,7). Exposure to Mycobacterium avium in agricultural systems has been associated with Crohn's disease, although the mechanism is not clear (8).

Agricultural chemicals may also indirectly affect human health via other, often unanticipated pathways. Examples include dispersal of biotoxins into coastal communities resulting from harmful algal blooms triggered by inputs of nitrates from agriculture (28-30) and the agricultural use and environmental occurrence of antibiotics that may facilitate the selection of antibiotic resistance in microbes in the soil and water environments (21).

Effects of climate change on chemical and pathogen inputs

Climate change is also likely to change the inputs of chemicals and biological contaminants to agricultural systems and may also affect their chemical form (Table 2). Changes in the abundance and seasonal activity of agricultural pests and diseases are predicted (31-36). In addition, there may be direct effects on the effectiveness of pesticides (37). A significant increase in the use of pesticides is therefore likely, and other biocides in the future and more effective pesticides may be required in some instances (Table 2).

Climate change may also increase the production of mycotoxins in agricultural systems (38) as well as affect the timing of exposure, distribution, quantity, and quality of aeroallergens (26,27). Warming temperatures may also promote the production of ozone, which worsens asthma (27).

Climate change may entail changes in farming practice. For example, livestock populations increasingly subjected to thermal stress and waterlogged pastures may lead to increased indoor housing of animals. This may result in an enhanced need to store and dispose of manures. Higher temperatures may facilitate the introduction of new pathogens, vectors, or hosts (39), leading to increased use of biocides and veterinary medicines (40). Workers may be in more frequent contact with livestock in such intensive regimes, so transmission of zoonotic diseases may increase.

Changes in contaminant transport pathways may also affect contaminant inputs to agricultural systems. Flood events can transport pathogens, dioxins, heavy metals, cyanide, and hydrocarbons from a contaminated area to a non -contaminated one (41,42). Climate change is likely to increase frequency of heavy precipitation events, so transport of historical contaminants from previously undisturbed sediments may occur. This could have implications for residue levels in food crops and food animals (43). Because irrigation demands may increase because of warmer and drier summers, water of poorer quality (including partially treated waste-water) may be applied to crops, resulting in additional contaminant loadings to crops (44). Changes in temperature and precipitation could also increase aerial inputs of volatile and dust-associated contaminants. Finally, changes in bioavailability may occur, with less bioavailable forms of contaminant being converted to more bioavailable forms. For example, Booth and Zeller (45) suggested that increases in temperature could enhance the methylation rate of mercury.

Alongside climate-change-driven changes in chemical and pathogen inputs, other drivers are also likely to affect the contaminants in agricultural systems. For example, the use of composting for treatment of municipal waste is increasing, with a portion of the resulting compost being used in agriculture. This is likely to increase loadings of microbes, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants in agricultural land (9). Increases in the costs of synthetic chemicals and a move toward organic farming will result in a reduction in the amounts of agrochemicals and fertilizers applied in agriculture in the United Kingdom.

Impacts of climate change on transport, fate, and exposure

Both transport pathways and fate processes for chemicals and pathogens will likely be affected by changes in climate conditions, and this will affect the exposure level. The significance of a particular pathway or process depends on the underlying properties (e.g., hydrophobicity, solubility, volatility) and form of the contaminant (particulate, particle associated, dissolved; Figure 1).

Transport to water bodies

Transport of contaminants from agricultural land to water bodies (ditches, rivers, lakes, groundwater) is well understood and depends on the soil properties and the intensity of water flow (46). Several studies have indicated that transport of contaminants to water bodies will increase with extreme precipitation events (47,48).

Overland flow, macropore flow, and flood immersion are the most important flow routes for particulates (e.g., prions, viruses, engineered nano-particles, bacteria, spores) and sorptive contaminants (e.g., hydrophobic organics, ammonium, heavy metals). Climate change may lead to a greater frequency of macropore and overland flow events as the infiltration capacity of the soil is exceeded. In addition, drier summers may lead to longer periods of very high soil moisture deficits, which may lead to increased hydrophobicity of soil surfaces and increased runoff during more intense summer rainfall. A secondary effect of dry summers may be an increase in soil shrinkage cracks, which may result in a more extensive and better connected macropore system.


Matrix flow is the most important route for transport of dissolved contaminants such as group 1 and 2 elements, nitrates, dissolved organic carbon, reactive phosphorus, and hydrophilic pesticides (46). This pathway may be influenced under climate change, but to a lesser extent than the pathways described above. Matrix flow may increase with wetter winters, resulting in higher soil moistures and hydraulic conductivities. In the summer, soil moistures may be lower and hydraulic conductivities reduced. These lower summer soil moistures may be offset by increased irrigation, thus restoring the matrix flow route temporarily, especially if the irrigation is poorly targeted.

Flood events have already been demonstrated to enhance the contamination of water bodies by pesticides (49). Flood immersion is likely to increase and aid the dispersion of agricultural chemicals after immersion in floodwater. This pathway has perhaps not received as much attention in this context as those described above.

Changes in precipitation levels and patterns will also affect river flows, changing both annual totals and seasonal patterns of flow (50). For rivers draining impermeable catchments, flow may decline rapidly when runoff decreases and effluent discharges are likely to make up a higher proportion of river flow. Rivers where flow is sustained by natural groundwater inflows are less sensitive to changes in runoff, although prolonged drought and depletion of groundwater may result in decreased flows that may persist even after new rainfall. Low flows may threaten effluent dilution, resulting in greater pathogen loading. However, low flows may also result in an increased amount of time between discharge and abstraction, allowing more time for pathogen and chemical decay to occur.

Models exist that account for some of these flow pathways but not necessarily for all contaminant types. Most field - or catchment-based water-quality models for agricultural systems account for vertical and horizontal matrix flow of dissolved contaminants, and some have been designed or modified to account for macropore flow (51,52). Models also exist for surface runoff and sediment transport (53,54).

Transport to the air compartment

Contaminants may be transported in the atmosphere via spray drift during the application process, volatilization and dispersion from treated surfaces (e.g., plants and soils), and windblown dust particles from soil surfaces. Typically, a portion of a sprayed-pesticide is transported away from the target area by spray drift. The extent of the spray drift depends on weather conditions, such as wind speed. Because the impacts of climate change on wind speed are uncertain, whether loss through spray drift will increase is not clear, nor is how the significance of this loss route will change relative to surface runoff or drainage. As more information becomes available on wind-speed changes, the impacts might be modeled using mechanistic models such as the program for Drift Evaluation for Field Sprayers by Computer Simulation (55) that consider wind speed and atmospheric stability.

Volatile organic and inorganic contaminants (e.g., methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, sulfides) can be transported from agricultural fields via a combination of volatilization and dispersion (31). The extent of the transport depends on the surface temperature, air temperature, and wind speed, all of which are predicted to change as a result of climate change. Dust can be released into the atmosphere during soil tilling and crop harvesting and is an important transport pathway for particulate and particle-associated contaminants, such as bacteria, fungal and bacterial spores, steroids, pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (56). Soil dust has already been linked to human health impacts (57). The predicted hotter drier summers could lead to increased drying of soils and an increase in surface dust and hence increased transfer into the environment (58). Transport of dust can be predicted using empirical models (59) through to more complex models that link meteorologic models with dust emission models (60). Under drier conditions, bioaerosols such as fungal spores and endotoxins are likely to be more of a problem than today (61-63).

Transport into food items

Uptake of chemicals from soil into plants depends on the physico-chemical properties of the contaminant and the nature of the soil (64,65). Although warmer climates can enhance evapotranspiration and uptake, these changes will probably be offset by the effects of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide that could reduce the activity of plant stomata and reduce plant transpiration. The bioavailability of chemical contaminants to crops may also increase with the predicted decline in soil organic carbon content in the future (66). Selected contaminants (e.g., mercury) may also be converted from a less bioavailable form to a more bioavailable form due to temperature increases (45). However, overall, the effect of climate change on plant uptake of chemical contaminants is likely to be small. Current regulatory models to simulate chemical fate and transport incorporate very simple routines to describe plant uptake and interception. These are probably inappropriate for estimating the impacts of climate change on human exposure from plant residues.

Vector transport

Climate change may be accompanied by an increase in the abundance and variety of vectors and host reservoirs for human and animal pathogens. Pathways of transmission within and between populations of wildlife, livestock, and humans will potentially be enhanced (67). For example, for mosquitoes, warmer temperatures will increase populations, lifespan, geographic distribution, rates of multiplication, feeding on humans, and inoculation rates and shorten the period between infection and infectivity (68). Water-related extreme weather events could also affect human-mosquito interactions, potentially increasing human contact and the incidence of malaria. Alongside this, increases in tick populations may occur, which might affect the incidence of Lyme disease (35,69). However, histories of many diseases reveal that climate change is not the principal determinant of incidence and that human activities and their impact on local ecology have generally been more significant (70). The potential changes in exposure may in fact be offset by human strategies to avoid temperature increases (e.g., indoor living and air conditioning) (70).

Effects on fate processes

As well as affecting contaminant transport, climate change is also likely to affect fate processes that determine the persistence and form of a contaminant in an environmental compartment. For chemical contaminants, biodegradation, transformation, and volatilization are expected to increase (Table 3), whereas sequestration of sorptive contaminants might decrease because soil organic carbon is predicted to decrease (71,72). The significance of these changes on exposure will vary. For example, for contaminants moving by macropores or overland flow, biodegradation, transformation, and volatilization are unlikely to affect transported concentrations because of the high speed of the flow pathway and the low contact with the soil. However, for matrix flow, there is intimate contact with the soil and flow velocities are low, so removal of degradable and hydrophobic contaminants from the flow path could be significantly increased. Flood immersion may result in anaerobic conditions in agricultural soils, which may in turn affect the speciation, degradation, and transport of selected contaminant types.

However, increased rates of degradation/transformation and accelerated breakdown of contaminants after deposition on agricultural land may reduce the concentrations of contaminants available to be transported by flooding. The impact of climate change on the behavior, viability, and fate of pathogens in the environment, and the stability and mobility of genes that encode attributes of public health significance, is much more difficult to assess because of a lack of knowledge. The various pathways and processes should not be considered in isolation because different climate-sensitive factors may have conflicting effects on human exposure.

Predicted impacts in terms of public exposure

Based on the evidence above, both the inputs to and fate and transport of chemicals and pathogens in agricultural systems will change in response to changes in climate. Therefore, we discuss the implications of climate change on changes in exposure to three classes of contaminants (plant protection products, bacterial pathogens, and nutrients); the potential impacts of these contaminants on human health; and potential management options to ameliorate any identified increase in risk.

Plant protection products

The use of pesticides will likely increase under climate change conditions as crop diseases become more prevalent, and as a result, loadings of pesticides in the environment will also increase. Amounts of pesticide applied to food items will therefore increase. The transport of particle-associated pesticides into water bodies will likely increase significantly, and there will be a moderate increase in the transport of hydrophilic and volatile pesticides. Complex interactions between fate processes could also affect exposures. Under scenarios with drier summers, water bodies will likely have less water, so contaminants will be less diluted. Therefore, it is likely that, with a few exceptions (e.g., non-persistent substances where exposure may decrease because of increased degradation), concentrations in air and water will likely increase significantly. Human exposure via aerial transport (spray drift, volatilization, and transport on dust particles), drinking water, and food (from direct pesticide application onto a food item or irrigation of crops with contaminated water) is therefore likely to increase. The risks of human health effects may therefore be greater than today. Although a number of health effects have been associated with agriculture (e.g., Parkinson's disease, other neurologic effects, and leukemia), the link to pesticide exposure is often unclear and heavily debated, so it is not possible to determine the impacts, if any, of these exposure changes on health. However, the exposure changes are manageable if policy makers anticipate and plan for them. On the regulatory side, policy makers should refine regulatory risk assessment tools to consider "new" transport routes and climate/soil/use scenarios and to apply these to new and existing pesticides to determine changes in risk. In the event that changes in risks are considered unacceptable, a number of mitigation options exist to reduce exposure that could be adopted. Possible on-farm solutions include increased tillage or incorporation (plowing) to reduce transport via macropores or overland flow, and improved management of field hydrology. More rigorous technological solutions could also be applied for cleaning up contaminated water, although this will result in increased costs to the consumer. Decision makers must ensure that policies, strategies, and measures are robust to climate scenarios as well as the socio-economic scenarios such as the predicted increase in the U.K. population level to 71 million by 2031 (73). The conclusions from this case study can also be applied to other agricultural contaminants such as substances applied in animal manures (e.g., veterinary medicines) or sewage sludge (e.g., human pharmaceutical and heavy metals).


Climate change and other drivers are likely to reduce the use of nutrient inputs in agriculture, but it is possible that intensification of agriculture in some areas will result in localized increases. Accompanying the climate effect, the overall projection is that fertilizer use will additionally decrease due to increased production costs and pressures to meet environmental targets such as those of the Water Framework Directive (74). The transport of particle and particle-associated phosphorus and ammonium to surface waters is likely to increase because of increased drain flow, overland flow, and flood immersion. Transport of dissolved phosphorus and nitrate is predicted to increase moderately. Despite the projected overall reductions in sources, the long-term exposure of water bodies is likely to worsen with the enhancement of pathways that will be able to take advantage of a generally large nutrient reservoir that exists in agricultural soils. These increases in exposure are likely to promote blooms of cyanobacteria, which may lead to the development of toxins (e.g., the liver toxin microcystin). This process will be further exacerbated by warmer temperatures in the spring and summer. Diseases associated with nitrate exposure may also become more of an issue. Potential on-farm mitigation options include technologies to improve fertilizer use and efficiency and increase tillage and incorporation. At a policy level, catchment-sensitive farming technologies should be encouraged.

Microbial pathogens

Agricultural intensification is likely to result in increased disease pressures and greater use of antibiotics and disinfectants, which in turn could result in the selection of more antibiotic-resistant pathogens. For example, hot, dry summers may demand indoor housing of livestock, with implications for disease spread and increased need for veterinary medicines and disinfectants, which could increase selection for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The abundance of vectors and secondary hosts (reservoirs) is likely to increase, and changes in climate conditions may well result in the appearance of "emerging" or "new" pathogens. Irrigation of food crops is likely to increase, possibly using poor-quality waters, which is likely to increase the occurrence of microbial contaminants in crop systems. Transport via preferential flow and runoff are likely to increase substantially, and flooding will increase mobility of microbial pathogens around the landscape. Therefore, environmental levels of microbial pathogens are likely to increase significantly, which may result in increased incidence of existing diseases and occurrence of new diseases. For waterborne pathogens, existing drinking water treatment and monitoring approaches will likely prevent human exposure, but exposure to pathogens in food items may well increase. It may be possible to mitigate these changes through increased tillage or incorporation, treatment of manure before application (or a move toward using manure as an energy source), and improved biosecurity practices.

Conclusions and recommendations

Overall, climate change is likely to increase human exposure to agricultural contaminants in the United Kingdom. The magnitude of the increases will be highly dependent on the contaminant type. The risks of many pathogens and particulate and particle-associate contaminants to human health could therefore increase significantly. These increases predicted in the U.K. agricultural environment can, however, be managed for the most part through targeted research and policy changes.

The sources of chemicals and pathogens of agricultural origin are likely to vary in the future because of climate and non-climate factors. The potential for source variance arising from behavioral responses (e.g., intensification of management and altered patterns of chemical and manure use) will also be a compounding factor affecting the contaminant sources. Climate change is anticipated to fuel increased use of pesticides and biocides as farming practices intensify. Intensification may also lead to increased levels of occupational contact, increasing potential for zoonoses. Extreme weather events will mobilize contaminants from soils and fecal matter, potentially increasing their bioavailability.

Climate change will also affect the fate and transport of pathogens and chemical contaminants in agricultural systems. Increases in temperature and changes in moisture content are likely to reduce the persistence of chemicals and pathogens, whereas changes in hydrologic characteristics are likely to increase the potential for contaminants to be transported to water supplies. Models are available for predicting the effect of climate change on many selected pathways and processes, although models for certain transport routes (e.g., flood immersion and dust transport) may need developing or transferring from other sectors.

Overall, we anticipate that climate change will result in an increase in risks of pathogens and chemicals from agriculture to human health. As the current links between agricultural exposure and human health are unclear, it is not possible to estimate the magnitude of these changes or to conclude whether these increases in exposure are acceptable or unacceptable in terms of health end points. For chemicals, we believe that it is possible to manage many of these risk increases through better regulation, monitoring, and the development of a long-term research program.

It is more difficult to predict the inputs and behavior of biological contaminants, so these may be more difficult to control than chemical substances. There are many major knowledge gaps and uncertainties, and we advocate that future work focuses on the following:

* The development of targeted surveillance schemes for presence and health effects of pathogens and chemicals arising from agriculture. This could include generation of quantitative microbial data in the environment (including nonculturable microorganisms), information on the presence and transport of antibiotic resistance genes, and data on occurrence of algal blooms and associate toxins.

* The development of future scenarios of land-use, social, technological, and economic change in order to assess how inputs of chemicals and pathogens may change into the future.

Given the potential contribution of imported food as a source of disease burden and issues of traceability back to food processing, imported goods should also be considered.

* Generation of experimental data sets and models for exposure pathways (e.g., flood immersion, dust transport in air, post-application volatilization) that as yet have not been studied in any detail. Models for some of these exposure pathways already exist in other sectors, and these may be easily adapted to the agricultural systems. This work should include the development of an improved understanding of the uncertainties and limitations of climate scenario data for future agricultural contaminant fate.

* Refinement of regulatory models and procedures in light of new knowledge and existing risk assessments for contaminants need to be regularly updated.

This work should involve U.K. government departments and monitoring agencies (e.g., the Health Protection Agency, the Environment Agency, and Research Councils). A suggested timeline for these recommendations is provided in Figure 2.


The relationship between chemical and biological contaminants of agricultural origin and the health of the population is complex. The complexity of the relationship is increased by the projected variability of climate and extreme weather events anticipated under the climate change scenarios. Future studies into the risks of agricultural contaminants to health should therefore be multi-disciplinary and pull together expertise in epidemiology, toxicology, land use, environmental chemistry, economics, and social science. Finally, it is important to recognize that agricultural systems are linked to the wider environment, and the implications of changes in inputs to and from these must not be ignored.


The development of this article was funded through a U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs interagency research project and the Joint Environment and Human Health Programme, which is supported by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency, the Ministry of Defence, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, and the Health Protection Agency. The authors declare they have no competing financial interests.

Received 11 August 2008

Accepted 10 December 2008


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Alistair Boxall [1,2]

Anthony Hardy [2]

Sabine Beulke [2]

Tatiana Boucard [3]

Laura Burgin [4]

Peter Falloon [4]

Philip Haygarth [5]

Thomas Hutchinson [6]

Sari Kovats [7]

Giovanni Leonardi [8]

Leonard Levy [9]

Gordon Nichols [8]

Simon Parsons [9]

Laura Potts [10]

David Stone [11]

Edward Topp [12]

David Turley [2]

Kerry Walsh [3]

Elizabeth Wellington [13]

Richard Williams [14]

This article was originally published by Environ Health Perspect 117:508-514 (2009).doi:<DO>10.1289/ ehp.0800084</DO> available via [Online 10 December 2008] and is part of the scientific collaboration between Cien Saude Colet and EHP.

[1] EcoChemistry Team, University of York/CSL, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ, UK.

[2] Central Science Laboratory.

[3] Environment Agency.

[4] Met Office Hadley Centre.

[5] Lancaster University.

[6] Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

[7] London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

[8] Health Protection Agency.

[9] Cranfield University.

[10] York St. John University.

[11] Natural England.

[12] Agriculture and AgriFood Canada.

[13] University of Warwick.

[14] Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Table 1. Potential exposure routes and health effects of chemical and
biological contaminants associated with agricultural activities.

Contaminant type        Potential      Level of
                         exposure     knowledge
                          routes     of exposure
  Heavy metals              F            High
  (e.g., cadmium)
  Dioxins                   F            High

  Mycotoxins                F            Med
  (e.g., aflatoxins,
  Nitrate                   DW           High

  Polychlorinated           F            High
  Pesticides             DW, F, A        High

  Pharmaceuticals         DW, F          Low
  Phycotoxins (e.g.,    DW, RW, F        Med

  Plant toxins (e.g.,       F            Low
  Veterinary             DW, F, A        Low
  Ozone                     A            Med

Bacteria and viruses
  Cryptosporidium         DW, RW         Med
  Giardia                 DW, RW         Med
  Campylobacte              F            Med
  Salmonella                F            Med
  Plasmodium                V            High
  Borrelia                  V            Med

  Pollen                    A            Med

Contaminant type        Health effects associated
                        with exposure

  Heavy metals          Renal and hepatic toxicity
  (e.g., cadmium)
  Dioxins               Reproductive effects,
                        carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity,
                        endocrine disruption, neurologic
                        effects, chloracne
  Mycotoxins            Stunting of growth, liver cancers,
  (e.g., aflatoxins,    aflatoxicosis, estrogenic effects
  Nitrate               Methemoglobinemia, bladder,
                        stomach, and prostrate cancers,
                        non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  Polychlorinated       Reproductive effects, congenital
  biphenyls             abnormalities
  Pesticides            Reduced eye-hand coordination,
                        effects on cognitive abilities,
                        developmental toxicity, estrogenic
                        effects, antiandrogenic effects,
                        congenital abnormalities, reduced
                        stamina, birth malformations,
                        cryptorchidism in male children,
                        pregnancy loss, Parkinson's disease
  Pharmaceuticals       Estrogenic effects, carcinogenicity
  Phycotoxins (e.g.,    Paralysis, gastrointestinal illness,
  microcystins)         amnesia, neurotoxicity, liver
  Plant toxins (e.g.,   Liver cancers, cirrhosis
  Veterinary            Selection of antimicrobial
  medicines             resistance
  Ozone                 Asthma

Bacteria and viruses
  Cryptosporidium       Self-limiting diarrhea
  Giardia               Gastrointestinal illness
  Campylobacte          Gastrointestinal illness
  Salmonella            Gastrointestinal illness
  Plasmodium            Malaria
  Borrelia              Lyme disease

  Pollen                Allergies, asthma

Contaminant type        Level of     Degree of      References
                        evidence    control in
                                      the UK
  Heavy metals              I          High             a
  (e.g., cadmium)
  Dioxins                   I          High            b,c

  Mycotoxins                C          High             d
  (e.g., aflatoxins,
  Nitrate                   I          High           e,f,g

  Polychlorinated           L          High          b, h, i
  Pesticides                I          High       b, f, h, j, k

  Pharmaceuticals           L           Low             l
  Phycotoxins (e.g.,        C          High            f,m

  Plant toxins (e.g.,       I           Low             m
  Veterinary                L           Low           n,o,p
  Ozone                     I           Low

Bacteria and viruses
  Cryptosporidium           C          High             f
  Giardia                   C          High             f
  Campylobacte              C           Med             f
  Salmonella                C          High             f
  Plasmodium                C           NA             q r
  Borrelia                  C          High             r

  Pollen                    C           Low            s, t

Abbreviations: A, air; C, conclusive evidence linking health end point
to environmental exposure; DW, drinking water; F, food; I,
inconclusive evidence linking health end point to environmental
exposure; L, limited evidence linking health end point to
environmental exposure; Med, medium; NA, not applicable; RW,
recreational water contact; V, vector borne. We have attempted, based
on the available literature, to indicate the level of evidence that
suggests that environmental exposure could cause the identified
effect(s); we also indicate the level of control (e.g., through
regulatory monitoring of food and water residues, water treatment, and
requirements for risk assessment) in the United Kingdom. a Deportes et
al. (9); b Goldman and Koduru (10); c Huwe (11); d Hawkes and Ruel
(12); e Cantor (13); f Fawell and Nieuwenhuijsen (14); g Boffetta and
Nyberg (15); h Dolk and Vrijheid (16); i Joffe (17); j Donald et al.
(18); k Stillerman et al. (3); l Kinney et al. (19); m van Egmond
(20); n Boxall et al. (21); o Boxall et al. (22); p Hamscher et al.
(23); q van den Berg et al. (24); r Githecko et al. (25); s Beggs and
Bambrick (26); t Shea et al. (27).

Table 2. Impacts of climate change on the inputs of chemicals and
pathogens to agricultural systems.

Contaminant         Contaminant type     Effect of climate change
source                                   on input

Plant protection    Herbicides,          Increased use due to
products            insecticides,        increased abundance and
                    fungicides           activity of plant diseases

Fertilizers         NO3, PO4             Intensification of cropping
                                         will increase use; decreases
                                         in soil organic carbon will
                                         increase use; increased
                                         leaching may increase use;
                                         more efficient plant uptake
                                         will reduce use

Sewage sludge       Heavy metals,        Intensification of cropping
                    pharmaceuticals,     will increase use; decreases
                    industrial           in soil organic carbon will
                    contaminants,        increase the need for
                    pathogens,           fertilizer use

Veterinary          Antibacterials,      Intensification of livestock
medicines           parasiticides        production will increase
                                         use; increase in disease
                                         pressures will increase use

Irrigation water    Pathogens, heavy     Irrigation of crops likely
                    metals,              to increase during dry
                    pesticides, other    periods

Flooding            Heavy metals,        Increased flooding may
                    dioxins,             mobilize legacy contaminants
                    polychlorinated      and transport them onto
                    biphenyls            agricultural land

Vectors             Bacteria, viruses    Ranges of selected vectors
                                         change; new diseases
                                         introduced to the UK

Aerial              Pesticides           Increased aerial transport
deposition                               of volatile pesticides
                                         between sites, increased
                                         soil blow

Changes in          Dioxins, mercury,    --
bioavailability     nutrients

Compost             Heavy metals,        --

Contaminants        Pollen,              Affects distribution,
from plants and     mycotoxins           quantity, and quality of
bacteria                                 autollergens; increases
                                         production of mycotoxins

Contaminant         Other drivers            Effect      References
source                                       on input

Plant protection    Move to organic          High        Bloomfield
products            farming will reduce                  et al. (31)
                    inputs; move to                      Cannon (32)
                    biofuels will increase

Fertilizers         Increased                Medium      --
                    manufacturing costs
                    may reduce use

Sewage sludge       Increased economic       Medium      --
                    value of biosolids
                    may lead to lower

Veterinary          Movement of farm         High        Gale et al.
medicines           animals may decrease                 (34)

Irrigation water    --                       High        Rose et al.

Flooding            --                       Medium      Harmon and
                                                         Wyatt (41);
                                                         et al. (42)

Vectors             --                       High        Gale et al.

Aerial              --                       Medium      --

Changes in          --                       High        Booth and
bioavailability                                          Zeller (45)

Compost             Move to recycling        High        Deportes
                    increases inputs                     et al. (9)

Contaminants        --                       High        Beggs and
from plants and                                          Bambrick
bacteria                                                 (26); Shea
                                                         et al. (27)

We developed the assessment of effects on input based on our current

Table 3. Effects of climate change on fate processes for biological
and chemical contaminants.

Fate/process                        Impact of climate change

  Death                             Drier summers increase death
                                    rate for soil microbes
                                    Temperature extremes increase
                                    death rate
                                    Higher UV radiation levels
                                    increase death
                                    Flooding and anaerobic
                                    conditions decrease death
  Growth                            Increased temperature and
                                    wetness increase growth
  Attenuation (loses active gene)   Uncertain
  Potentiation (gene transfer)      Uncertain
  Adherence                         Not sensitive

  Hydrolysis                        Not sensitive
  Photolysis                        Increases as UV radiation
                                    increases in summer
  Biodegradation/transformation     Higher temperatures increase
                                    Wetter winters increase rate
                                    Drier summers decrease rate
  Sequestration                     Lower for contaminants that sorb
                                    to soil organic matter
                                    Might be affected by drier soils
                                    Small temperature effect
  Volatilization                    Increases with increasing
  Bioconcentration                  Increases with increasing
  Biomagnification                  Not sensitive
  Dillution                         Increases in periods of high
                                    Decreases in prolonged dry

UV, ultraviolet
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Author:Boxall, Alistair; Hardy, Anthony; Beulke, Sabine; Boucard, Tatiana; Burgin, Laura; Falloon, Peter; H
Publication:Ciencia & Saude Coletiva
Date:May 1, 2010
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