Canadian Forest Service Publications

Ecological risk assessment for aquatic organisms from over-water uses of glyphosate. 2003. Solomon, K.R.; Thompson, D.G. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, part B 6: 289-324.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 24690

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Although the herbicide glyphosate is most widely used in agriculture, some is used for the control of emergent aquatic weeds in ditches, wetlands, and margins of water bodies, largely as the formulation Rodeo. This article presents an ecological risk assessment (ERA) of glyphosate and some of the recommended surfactants as used in or near aquatic systems. Glyphosate does not bioaccumulate, biomagnify, or persist in a biologically available form in the environment. Its mechanism of action is specific to plants and it is relatively nontoxic to animals. As a commercial product, glyphosate may be formulated with surfactants that increased efficacy but, in some cases, are more toxic to aquatic organisms than the parent material. For this risk assessment, three model exposure scenarios --static or low-flow systems such as ponds, flowing waters such as streams, and systems subjected to tidal flows such as estuaries--were chosen and application rates from 1 to 8 kg glyphosate/ha were modeled. Additional measured exposure data from several field studies were also used. As acute exposures are most likely to occur, acute toxicity data were used as effect measures for the purposes of risk assessment. Toxicity data were obtained from the literature and characterized using probabilistic techniques. Risk assessments based on estimated and measured concentrations of glyphosate that would result from its use for the control of undesirable plants in wetlands and over-water situations showed that the risk to aquatic organisms is negligible or small at application rates less than 4 kg/ha and only slightly greater at application rates of 8 kg/ha. Less is known about the environmental fate and toxicology of the surfactants commonly used in combination with the Rodeo formulation of glyphosate. The surfactants used for this purpose were judged not to be persistent nor bioaccumulative in the environment. Distributional analysis of measured deposition concentrations of LI 700, suggest that this surfactant presents an insignificant acute risk to aquatic organisms. Assuming similar applications rates, significant ecological effects would not be expected from the use of some other surfactants such as Induce or X-77. Risks from the use of glyphosate +MON 0818 (Roundup) were slightly greater than those from glyphosate and surfactants such as LI 700; however, in over-water uses, risks were still considered small. Similar small risks were observed for measured concentrations of glyphosate in surface waters resulting from aerial application of Vision (a formulation equivalent to Roundup) to forestry areas in Canada. Concentrations measured after ground application presented a greater risk, but the data were sparse and the assessment is more uncertain.