Enviresearch goes to ERAR

The annual Environmental Risk Assessment Research (ERAR) meeting was hosted at York University last month, organised by the HSE Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD). Two members of the Environment Team attended in person, Stephen Brignall (fate) and Chloe Eastabrook (ecotox), and James Garratt was in attendance online. The event was organised into different sessions, including environmental fate & exposure, exposure & effects and CRD regulation updates.

The CRD provided updates on a number of key areas, including the revised UK Higher Tier Drainflow Calculator, new guidance regarding the UK implementation of the EFSA stereoisomers guidance, and updates on the aquatics buffer zone review. This last talk, provided by Clare Butler Ellis of Silsoe Spray Applications Unit was of particular interest. The presentation covered the history of precision applications, an overview of existing methodologies, and first thoughts on how spray drift risk assessments could be refined to account for precision applications. The talk was an important marking point, as efforts to update the regulation of precision applications again pace. Earlier this year CRD advertised a tender for development of environmental risk assessments allowing for variable rate spraying, and a pan European effort, the European Precision Application Task Force has been founded in recent months, working to consider many aspects of precision applications in the product authorisation process. Two Enviresearch consultants, James Garratt and Stephen Brignall, joined the first EUPAF meeting in June.

As expected, when EFSA guidance documents are released in short succession, there were two talks in the exposure and effects session about the revised bee guidance and the updated birds & mammals’ guidance. Before the event began, there was a clash with an EFSA ecotoxicology bee guidance webinar, which was also scheduled on the same morning. The ERAR organisers responded with a reshuffle of the schedule, moving the ecotoxicology session to the afternoon, to allow any ecotoxicologists or risk assessors to attend both. This was highly appreciated and allowed Liz Collison from Corteva, who was giving a talk on the new bee guidance, to give us hot off the press updates and add EFSAs responses to questions into their talk. Both these talks about revised/updated EFSA guidance documents were from an important industry perspective, and presented the audience with thought-provoking questions, like are the right things being screened out in this risk assessment, and did you know that the reality of increased complexity at all tiers means that the bee guidance includes around 250 calculation steps at Tier 1 alone on a single crop to cover all three bee groups?

Overall, it was a valuable day trip to York from Newcastle, and the organisers provided a great space to discuss different perspectives on current guidance and ideas on how we can update some of our 20-year-old guidance documents! This invited great conversations between companies, regulators and government agencies about what protections and guidelines we have in place and how can we use novel technology (and even older technology, as explained by Clare Butler Ellis that targeted spray applications have been around in some form since the 90s and early 00s) to achieve protection goals in the UK.