Hidden dangers of pesticide use
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CTA. 1994. Hidden dangers of pesticide use. Spore 51. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49397
Pesticides, rice production and farmers' health Published 1993 by IRRI PO Box 993 Manila 1099 PHILIPPINES Work-related disease in tropical agriculture Graeme Rainbird and David O'Neill Overseas Division Silsoe Research Institute Wrest
Farmers who spray their rice crops with pesticides can generally expect to harvest more rice and earn more money. But a report by the International Rice Research Institute concludes that there are hidden costs to human health which can cancel out those gains. The researchers, led by Dr Parbhu Pingali, found that while farmers are aware that contact with pesticides can cause skin irritation, they are generally unaware that, in the long term, using pesticides exposes them and their families to the risk of damage to their lungs, eyes, kidneys and nervous systems. As these effects build up over time, working days are lost and eventually treatment is required. It is these costs that the study has added into the production equation. The study points out that it is difficult for many smallholder farmers to handle and use pesticides safely. They are not trained, they do not have adequate storage facilities and they cannot afford protective clothing. Many of the chemicals used are category 1 and 2 pesticides that the World Health Organization classifies as being 'extremely'; or 'moderately' hazardous. The report questions the need to use pesticides at all. Despite the generally held belief that half a rice crop could be lost to pests, the researchers found losses were not nearly as high. They suggest that there is no need to spray the crop regularly unless there is a major infestation. Natural control of nests through a policy of integrated pest management (IPM) should be actively encouraged by governments, says Dr Pingali. At the same time they should remove subsidies and other incentives for using pesticides. Switching to less hazardous chemicals, those in categories 3 and 4 would have enormous benefits to health. Pesticides, rice production and farmers' health Published 1993 by IRRI PO Box 993 Manila 1099 PHILIPPINES The dangers of pesticide use are also highlighted in a report published by the Silsoe Research Institute which points out that, according to the figures issued by WHO/UNEP in 1990, pesticides kill approximately 20,000 people each year. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries, even though they use relatively small amounts of pesticides compared to the developed world. One of the main reasons is that spraying equipment, based on designs from industrialized countries, is often unsuitable for use in tropical developing countries. Furthermore, term workers are not sufficiently literate to read warnings or understand instructions on pesticide usage. The problem is further exacerbated by the use of potent chemicals, some of which are so toxic that they have been banned in industrialized countries. The report suggests that pesticide poisoning could be reduced by the use of better-designed and better-maintained knapsack sprayers, by the use of smaller volumes of chemicals and through safer handling practices. Work-related disease in tropical agriculture Graeme Rainbird and David O'Neill Overseas Division Silsoe Research Institute Wrest Park Silsoe Beds. MK45 4HS UK