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Much of European Rainwater is Unfit to Drink

Swiss Study

Last updated 12:54 PM ET March 31, 1999

LONDON (Reuters) - Rain falling in Europe is so full of toxic pesticides that much of it is too dangerous to drink, Swiss scientists said Wednesday.

Chemicals used in pesticides sprayed on crops evaporate, are absorbed by clouds and returned to earth in rainwater. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology said concentrations of dangerous substances in rain from a heavy storm exceed the limit for drinking water set by the European Union and Switzerland.

"Drinking water standards are regularly exceeded in rain," Stephan Muller told New Scientist magazine.

Muller and his colleagues analyzed samples of rainwater and found it contained almost 400 nanograms per liter of the widely used pesticide 2-4-dinitrophenol -- quadruple the 100 nanograms limit set by the EU for any pesticide. The highest concentrations of the substance were found in the first heavy rainfall following a dry spell after crops had been sprayed. Muller also suggested the first rainwater falling on rooftops should be diverted to sewers, because the water could contain traces of an herbicide added to roofing material.


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