Health professionals join global call for ban of “Highly Hazardous Pesticides”
WE, TOXICOLOGISTS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, CALL FOR A GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF HIGHLY HAZARDOUS PESTICIDES
Many pesticides pose a threat to human health and the environment and result in heavy costs to societies. Due to their extensive use over a long period of time, highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) are now widely dispersed throughout ecosystems globally. Pesticides are found in human bodies and other living organisms, food and water, soil, and in the air.
Early statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that about 200,000 people were being killed worldwide and as many as 25 million agricultural workers in the developing world were suffering from occupational pesticide poisoning, every year. In the decades since that estimate, surveys have indicated that occupational poisoning is increasing.Official studies grossly underestimate these numbers. It is known that many children are poisoned by pesticides but there is no estimate of numbers. UNEP’s Global Chemical Outlook report points out that “Acute chemical poisoning data are highly variable and depend on the surveillance infrastructure in place in individual countries or regions”. WHO acknowledges that there are no reliable estimates of pesticide poisonings and that existing estimates likely significantly underestimate the global burden.
Nearly 120 concerned professors, toxicologists, epidemiologists and physicians from 24 countries signed the letter, citing the World Health Organization’s statistics on the serious, sometimes fatal, effects of pesticide exposure. Noting the health impacts on children, the signers said that “there is growing evidence that the health of future generations may be severely jeopardized” by highly hazardous pesticides, also known as HHPs.
“HHPs are a danger to both agricultural workers and people living near areas of application,” said Javier Souza, current Chair of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International. “Some HHPs have the potential to move through water, air, soil and end up in food thereby affecting people living outside agricultural areas. There are many effective agroecological alternatives to replace these chemicals. We need to ban HHPs immediately.”
HHPs, according to WHO, are extremely difficult to use without significant risk to people or to the environment; exposure can damage a person’s nervous, reproductive and developmental systems or result in cancer. Even so, HHPs such as glyphosate (an active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular weed killer RoundUp), DDT and paraquat are still widely used around the world. Those commonly used in the U.S. include the herbicides atrazine, glyphosate and 2,4-D and the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.
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