Around 170,000 people exposed to ‘contaminated’ drinking water in Switzerland

While Swiss drinking water is generally of high quality, supply to around 2.7 percent of the population does not meet current environmental standards, a new study has found.

Around 170,000 people exposed to 'contaminated' drinking water in Switzerland
Most of the problem samples came from agricultural areas. File photo: Depositphotos

The study (here in German) by the Swiss Association of Cantonal Chemists (SACC) saw researchers examine 296 drinking water samples from around the country for the presence of pesticides.

The samples covered 73 percent of the population. A total of 12 contained higher than permitted levels of pesticide breakdown products. In some cases, levels were 10 times above those permitted levels.

Around 2.7 percent of the population were affected.

In most cases, the problem substance was a breakdown product of the fungicide Chlorothalonil.

While the SACC report does not state where there the 12 tests were taken, it does reveal that most were from agricultural areas.

Swiss farmers use some 30 tonnes of Chlorothalonil each year.

However, the European Food Safety Authority in April said it would ban the substance after investigations revealed it could not be ruled out as a carcinogenic.

The substance is still used in Switzerland, but in August the Swiss government said it wanted a ban put in place.

Swiss waterworks affected by the problem of elevated pesticide levels have been aware of the problem for several weeks. Steps are already been taken including mixing different water sources to dilute pesticide levels and using filters, according to the SACC.

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Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020

The crushing of live male chicks is at the centrepiece of a number of new animal protection regulations to be passed in the new year.

Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020
Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

A number of other changes to mass agriculture will also come into effect in January, including tracking sheep and goats, as well as greater restrictions on pesticides and more assistance available to farmers in the instance of drought. 

In industrial farming across the globe, male chicks are typically shredded a day after birth as they do not lay eggs and are of little value in factory farms. 

Although the practice is relatively rare in Switzerland, it will be formally forbidden from January 2020. 

READ: Germany allows the shredding of live chicks to continue

The law does include some exceptions for smaller egg producers, however if male chicks are to be put to death, this must now be done with CO2 gas. 

The Swiss House of Representatives, when passing the law, called the practice “absurd”. 

Technology exists which can determine a chick’s sex just nine days into incubation. Although this is used in the United States, Germany and elsewhere, it is as yet not widespread in Switzerland. 

Pesticide restrictions, helicopters for thirsty cows

The Swiss government has made army helicopters available to transport water for cattle in the instance of drought. 

Switzerland’s central animal trafficking database will now also track sheep and goats, with the animals to be given tracking ear tags. 

Furthermore, there will be restrictions on certain pesticides, with the carcinogenic Chlorothalonil banned from January onwards. 

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