20% of French people are exposed to "non-compliant" tap water

According to data collected by Le Monde, approximately 12 million inhabitants were confronted with drinking water from the tap containing pesticide residues beyond the quality limits.

Is tap water really drinkable? Two separate journalistic surveys, one from Le Monde published on Thursday, the other from the magazine "Complément d'Enquête" broadcast on Thursday evening, both show that 20% of French people live in regions affected by quality thresholds being exceeded.

12 million French people live in regions where water quality thresholds have been exceeded

The Le Monde survey thus reveals that 12 million French people, or around 20% of the population living in mainland France, are subjected to tap water that does not comply with quality criteria, "regularly or occasionally", specifies the daily, against 5.9% in 2020. Qualified as "non-compliant", this water is not toxic. " The drinking water of 20% of the population in mainland France exceeds the quality thresholds required for pesticides and metabolites ", writes the evening daily.

A survey of the program "Complément d'Enquête" broadcast Thursday on France 2 arrives at the same conclusions. "In just over 20% of the samples, the health authorities noted that the quantity of one or more molecules of pesticides or their metabolites was exceeded, beyond the regulatory threshold. (...) This represents 12,281 overruns between January 2021 and July 2022, affecting 8,959 municipalities", concludes this second survey.

We do not know exactly the consequences for the body of these traces of pesticides, according to the Ministry of Health. "The long-term effects on the health of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess", specifies the franceinfo site which has set up a search engine to find out in each municipality whether tap water contains pesticides above quality limits.

Pesticide spreading in the viewfinder

How do these pesticides get into tap water? After spreading on crops, pesticides seep into the soil, then contaminate groundwater, the main reservoir of tap water. Pesticides are not found directly in water but in molecules resulting from their degradation. “Glyphosate turns into Ampa; chloridazone turns into diphenyl thioridazine,” writes franceinfo. However, water is highly monitored and controlled in France.

If the quality limit is exceeded, the water continues to be distributed. On the other hand, a second threshold, called "maximum health value" (Vmax), must not be crossed. "This threshold is set according to the toxicological data of the substance in question. For the ESA metolachlor, which often appears in the table above, this "Vmax" is established at 510 μg/L, a threshold never exceeded in the period that we studied",  note franceinfo.

65% of the inhabitants of Hauts-de-France affected

It is in Hauts-de-France that the situation is the worst: 65% of the population is affected by non-compliance. Then comes Brittany (43%), the Grand-Est (25.5%), Pays-de-la-Loire (25%), Burgundy-Franche-Comté (17%), and Normandy (16%). . Quality overruns have been measured in nearly 9,000 municipalities since January 2021, according to franceinfo.

On September 15, the Regional Health Agency of Hauts-de-France announced that it had placed under reinforced surveillance 45 municipalities in the region, evening 13,500 inhabitants because the levels of thioridazine metabolites (a residual by-product of thioridazine) in drinking water are particularly high.