Time‐Cumulative Toxicity of Neonicotinoids: Experimental Evidence and Implications for Environmental Risk Assessments

Our mechanistic understanding of the toxicity of chemicals that target biochemical and/or physiological pathways, such as pesticides and medical drugs is that they do so by binding to specific molecules. The nature of the latter molecules (e.g., enzymes, receptors, DNA, proteins, etc.) and the strength of the binding to such chemicals elicit a toxic effect in organisms, which magnitude depends on the doses exposed in a given timeframe. While dose and time of exposure are critical factors determining the toxicity of pesticides, different types of chemicals behave differently.Experimental evidence demonstrates that the toxicity of neonicotinoids increases with exposure time as much as with the dose, and therefore it has been described as time‐cumulative toxicity.

Examples for aquatic and terrestrial organisms are shown here. This pattern of toxicity, also found among carcinogenic compounds and other toxicants, has been ignored in ecotoxicology and risk assessments for a long time. The implications of the time‐cumulative toxicity of neonicotinoids on non‐target organisms of aquatic and terrestrial environments are far reaching.

Firstly, neonicotinoids are incompatible with integrated pest management (IPM) approaches and secondly regulatory assessments for this class of compounds cannot be based solely on exposure doses but need also to take into consideration the time factor.

Source:Sánchez-Bayo, F., and Tennekes, H.A. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 1629; doi:10.3390/ijerph17051629