Critical Review on the Carcinogenic Potential of Pesticides Used in Korea


Pesticides used in Korea are grouped by four classes of hazard (extremely, highly, moderately and slightly hazardous) based on acute oral and dermal toxicity in the rat. However, there is little information of carcinogenic effects. The aim of this study was to evaluate potential carcinogenicity for active ingredients of pesticides used in Korea. A total of 1,283 pesticide items were registered under the Pesticide Control Act of which 987 were commercially available. Of these 987 items, 360 active ingredients not duplicated were evaluated for carcinogenicity using the carcinogen list established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some 25 out of 360 ingredients were classified as likely to be carcinogenic (probable) to humans and 52 had suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential (suspected) based on the US EPA classification. Some 31% of 987 items contained probable or suspected human carcinogenic ingredients. Carcinogenic pesticides accounted for 24% (5,856/24,795 tons) of the total volume of consumption in Korea. Interestingly, pesticides with lower acute toxicity were found to have higher carcinogenic potential. Based on these findings, the study suggests that it is important to provide information on long-term toxicity to farmers, in addition to acute toxicity data.