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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Environmental fate of glyphosate used on Swedish railways — Results from environmental monitoring conducted between 2007–2010 and 2015–2019

Cederlund, Harald


Glyphosate herbicides are widely relied upon by European railway operators for controlling vegetation growing on railway tracks. In Sweden, concentrations of glyphosate and its main degradation product AMPA have been monitored in the groundwater close to railways during two monitoring periods: between 2007-2010 and 2015-2019. In total, 603 groundwater samples from 12 different monitoring sites and 645 soil samples from 5 of these sites were analyzed. Glyphosate and AMPA were detected in 16% and 14%, respectively, of groundwater samples taken from directly beneath the track, with concentrations exceeding the EU groundwater quality standard of 0.1 mu g/L in 6 and 4% of the cases, respectively. The highest concentrations detected in single samples were 7 mu g glyphosate/L and 1.1 mu g AMPA/L. However, further horizontal spread in the groundwater zone appeared to be limited as glyphosate and AMPA were only detected in 1-3% of the groundwater samples taken from outside the track area itself, and since no difference was seen between water from reference and down-gradient wells. In the autumn of 2018, higher concentrations were detected in the groundwater from beneath 3 out of the 5 then active monitoring sites and a possible explanation is that the unusually hot and dry summer of 2018 limited degradation, thus leading to an increased susceptibility of leaching. The contents of glyphosate and AMPA in soil samples from three of the sites were very low (average < 0.05 mg/kg in soil from 0 to 30 cm), indicating that they were only sprayed to a limited degree, whereas the contents from two of the test sites were in line with what would be expected based on the used dose and a predicted half-life of about 4 +/- 2 months (average 0.22-0.84 mg/kg). No signs of accumulation of glyphosate in the railway ballast over time were observed.


Herbicides; Groundwater; Environmental fate

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2022, volume: 811, article number: 152361

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG3 Good health and wellbeing
SDG9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science
Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)