Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft SECO, Ressort Chemikalien und Arbeit, 8004 Zürich

Evaluating occupational health risks in the approval process of plant protection products

Plant protection products (PPP) have become an important production factor in many agricultural cultivation systems without which the high quality and output of agricultural products cannot be guaranteed. On the other hand however, PPP often have dangerous properties, and can therefore only be brought into circulation in Switzerland once they have been approved by the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG). Approval is given provided that it can be guaranteed that people, animals and the environment will be protected when such products are used. Various Federal departments are involved in the process of assessing the specific properties of a PPP, with one of them being the Chemicals and Occupational Health section of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which is an assessment office responsible for the evaluation of the protective measures which are necessary to ensure the health of professional users of PPPs. The protective measures which are necessary for the application of PPPs are derived from two factors: (1) the properties of the chemicals which are hazardous to health and (2) the systemic exposure of users to PPPs. With the help of recognised calculation models, the exposure for users of PPPs and for operating staff for follow-up work in treated surfaces can be estimated. The SECO regulatory body uses this to produce a report, formulating the necessary protective measures to ensure the protection of the health of professional users when using PPPs according to the regulations.

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