Organisms and ecosystems are generally exposed to mixtures of chemicals rather than to individual chemicals, but there have been relatively few detailed analyses of the mixtures of pesticides that occur in surface waters. This study examined over 2600 water samples, analysed for between 21 and 47 pesticides, from 15 waterways that discharge to the lagoon of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2015. Essentially all the samples (99.8%) contained detectable concentrations (>limit of detection) of pesticides and pesticide mixtures. Approximately, 10% of the samples contained no quantifiable (>limit of reporting) pesticides, 10% contained one quantifiable pesticide and 80% contained quantifiable mixtures of 2–20 pesticides. Approximately 82% of samples that contained quantifiable mixtures had more than two modes of action (MoAs), but only approximately 6% had five or more MoAs. The mode, average and median number of quantifiable pesticides in all the samples were 2, 5.1 and 4, respectively. The most commonly detected compounds both individually and in mixtures were the pesticides atrazine, diuron, imidacloprid, hexazinone, 2,4-D, and the degradation product desethylatrazine. The number of pesticides and modes of action of pesticides in mixtures differed spatially and were affected by land use. Waterways draining catchments where sugar cane was a major land use had mixtures with the most pesticides. Waters entering the Great Barrier Reef were analysed for pesticides, 80% of samples contained 2 to 20 quantifiable pesticides with a mean of 5.1. Land use can predict the number of pesticides in mixtures.
- Land use
- Mode of action
- Surface waters
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis