Pesticides endanger children in developing countries
Highly toxic pesticides pose a health risk. Children in developing countries in particular are suffering from the mass use of highly dangerous crop protection agents, according to the results of a recent study by the aid organization Terre des Hommes and the pesticide action network PAN Germany. The two organizations have urged governments and industry to finally remove the extremely harmful pesticides from the market.
According to Terre des Hommes' child rights expert, Albert Recknagel, around 40,000 people die each year from the effects of pesticide poisoning, although it remains unclear how many of those affected are children. In addition, there is a significant number of unreported cases, so that an assessment of those actually affected hardly seems possible. However, it is clear that 99 percent of pesticide poisoning is in developing countries, said Recknagel. International efforts to ensure safe handling of the pesticides have been going on since the mid-1980s, but the number of poisonings reported annually has continued to increase, criticized the managing director of the pesticide action network, Carina Weber.
Increasing health damage from pesticides The study "Pesticides and Children" reveals that children in developing countries in particular are at significant risk from the use of pesticides. The child rights expert from Terre des Hommes criticized that they were exposed to almost no protection from the risk of serious poisoning. The efforts to reduce the health damage caused by pesticides worldwide, which have been ongoing for almost thirty years, have apparently failed to achieve their goal. For example, men in developing countries primarily received training on how to deal with the dangerous pesticides, but women and their children also come into regular contact with the highly toxic pesticides, the experts at Terre des Hommes and PAN complained. The women would often mix and pack the pesticides. They also usually wash their men's pesticide-contaminated clothing and the plant protection products are also used to control pests in the home, so that there are numerous points of contact with the dangerous chemicals, reports Carina Weber. In this way, it is not uncommon for children in the womb to be harmed by the toxins, according to the experts.
Shortness of breath, dizziness, visual disturbances - symptoms of pesticide poisoning Children in developing countries regularly come into contact with the highly dangerous crop protection products while playing in sprayed fields, and the pesticides are also often stored in the house and are accessible to children, the PAN managing director explained. In addition, the children have to apply the pesticides themselves when working in the fields, according to the current study. The dangerous pesticides are mostly sold on the street, filled in juice or lemonade bottles, which significantly increases the risk of confusion with food, especially in children, Weber complained. The long-term consequences of pesticide poisoning for adolescents are extremely worrying, added Terre des Hommes child rights expert Albert Recknagel. The experts describe shortness of breath, dizziness, visual disturbances, eye and skin damage, muscle cramps and loss of consciousness as symptoms of acute poisoning by pesticides. Pesticide poisoning could be fatal and should therefore not be underestimated, warn Recknagel and Weber.
Pesticides should be withdrawn from the market As a long-term consequence of pesticide poisoning, the current study mentions, among other things, an increased risk of allergies, cancer and infertility. In addition, comparative studies with schoolchildren in Bolivia had shown that the children of workers on flower plantations had concentration problems and learning difficulties twice as often as the Bolivian children on average. Flower growing is one of the sectors in which a particularly large number of crop protection products are used. The pesticide action network has also been committed in the interests of the local population for years, together with other organizations such as Greenpeace or now Terre des Hommes, to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture and crop cultivation. The independent studies by the non-profit institutions also contributed to the fact that, for example, the limit values for pesticide levels in food in the European Union were significantly reduced in early June 2010. In light of the latest study results, PAN and Terre des Hommes are now calling on governments, the pesticide industry, the textile, animal feed and food industries to develop plans to eliminate the highly toxic pesticides and to finally take them off the market. (fp)
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Image: Angel Garcia / Greenpeace