Community Monitoring Shows Pattern of Labour Violations in Southeast Asia Plantations

PENANG, MALAYSIA APRIL 28, 2017 – On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and partners disclosed patterns of poor working conditions for labourers in plantations in Southeast Asia. From exposure to toxic agrochemicals to meager wages, the group said that the conditions of plantation workers violate human rights and several international labor standards and regulations.

PANAP and its partners carried out community monitoring in Mindanao, Philippines  and an initial investigation in North Sumatra, Indonesia . The findings reveal that the expansion of banana and oil palm industries comes at a very steep price – abandonment of occupational safety and continued exploitation of vulnerable workers.

Health concerns over hazardous pesticides

Workers being exposed to highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) like Syngenta’s paraquat  and Monsanto’s glyphosate  were raised in the reports.

In one of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified plantations in North Sumatra, of the 15 women who participated in the investigation, 13 reported to have suffered symptoms linked to HHP exposure. Puspita (not real name) recalled dizziness, headache, blurred vision, excessive sweating, hand tremors, nausea, skin rashes and diarrhoea, among others with her exposure to pesticides.

Similarly, in the Philippines, workers experienced dizziness and headaches immediately after spraying, and believed that excessive sweating and blurred vision were side effects of pesticides exposure. There were 11 recorded cases of pesticide poisoning and several health symptoms.

Adriana (also not real name) has breast cysts and myoma and finds it difficult to urinate, while experiencing itchiness around her vaginal area. She attributed her symptoms to pesticides since she used to urinate on newly sprayed grounds in her oil palm plantation.

PAN Phillippines’ Dr. Romeo Quijano said, “These findings further substantiate our claims that the use of pesticides in these communities has been causing severe health impacts on the people. Things are made even worse by the lack of access to trained medical professionals who can properly recognize the health symptoms of pesticides poisoning and give the appropriate treatment.”

Inadequate training and protective equipment

Key findings of the report further show that workers received either inadequate training for pesticide handling or none. Personal protective equipments (PPEs) were provided once to the workers but they were expected to purchase on their own once the PPEs have become worn out or degraded. The workers also have limited or no knowledge of pesticides and their hazards.

Without replacement PPEs from plantation operators, some Filipino workers resort to the use of bra cups as masks or “respirators” while Indonesian women workers wrap scarves around their faces to cover and protect them from the strong odour of pesticides.

“This is beyond appalling. How could the management be doing this to their workers? Ensuring the safety of their workers should be the primary responsibility of the management. They cannot expect the workers who are already receiving little wages to spend half of their income on protective gears,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP Executive Director.

Casual, underpaid and overworked women

Workers in the plantations investigated by PANAP and its partners were casual or seasonal and underpaid, and in some instances, overworked.

In Indonesia, for instance, the findings show that all women from the report were casual workers, working less than 21 days in a month – a strategy employed by the plantations to avoid promoting the women maintenance workers into permanent or regular status. There were no work contracts or written agreements provided to the women workers as well.

Sprayers were paid an average of USD 4.5 to USD 6 per day, where they work 6 days per week, from 7 am till 2 or 3 pm. Though they were paid a very low wages compared to the workload they endure daily in humid and hot weather under the burning sun, they continued to stay and work in the plantation. They were forced to stay because almost all were uneducated and unable to look for other better jobs elsewhere. Apart from that working in a plantation give the workers a secure home for their family , provided by the plantations.

Impact on children

Another crucial concern from the findings was how the use of HHPs in the plantations have been affecting the people living nearby it especially the children. There was a case of a healthy three-year old child who has become mentally ill upon being exposed to the pesticide drift as a result of the aerial spraying in a banana plantation in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, three cases of acute poisoning were found in one of the oil palm plantations in the Indonesian province.

Deeppa Ravindran, the Pesticides Programme Coordinator of PANAP said, “The major concern is really the people especially children for they are the most vulnerable. Many living inside and within the 10-meter radius of the banana and oil palm plantations have been exposed to aerial spraying of pesticides while doing their laundry in the rivers and some even while eating.”

Addressing the violations

Key findings in the reports reveal multiple violations of national and international regulations on occupational safety and health (OSH), of Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework for Business and Human Rights, International Labour Standards and provisions mentioned in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.

ILO’s Chemicals Convention (c.170), for instance, states that workers have the right to be informed about the chemicals they are using in the workplace and of their hazards, and that employers have the obligation to provide workers with such information and precautionary measures.

Given the failure of the plantation owners or employers to protect the safety and health of their workers and the pattern of labour rights violations in plantations, PANAP called for further “protection of labour rights and promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment” as stated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

PANAP added that concerned governments, plantations, corporations, institutions and agencies should not only monitor compliance on health and environmental impacts of pesticides but also ban and phase out HHPs, while ensuring that the sales and trade of these pesticides come to an end.

Take Action >> Protect Children in rural communities against pesticides


  1. Center for International Environmental Law. (2015). Human rights impact of hazardous pesticides. Retrieved from

Report Links:

  1. Community Monitoring in Mindanao, Philippines >>
  1. Price of Indonesia’s Palm Oil >>

#PesticidesFreeWorld #CorporateAccountability #ProtectOurChildrenFromPesticides #ProtectChildrenNotProfits

For more information Deeppa Ravindran, Program Coordinator,



EU Commission’s approval of Dow-DuPont merger will not hinder move towards agroecology

dow chemical memes
The Dow-Dupont merger. (Source:

EU Commission’s (EUC) recent approval of the $130 billion Dow-DuPont merger is a blatant blow to the people’s fight against mergers between the big six agrochemical companies. The approval, hinged on the divestiture of major parts of DuPont’s global pesticide business and does not take into account the sociopolitical dimension of the merger, is simply unacceptable. Both headquartered at the USA, Dow and DuPont have a strong portfolio of herbicides and insecticides, and have intellectual property rights on genetically engineered (GE) seeds and traits.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s words succinctly reflect the EUC’s position:

“The livelihood of farmers depends on access to seeds and crop protection at competitive prices. We need to make sure that the proposed merger does not lead to higher prices or less innovation for these products.”

The approval is deplorable as it could expedite other pending mergers and thus, put 59% of global commercial seed and 64% of pesticide supply into the hands of just three companies: Bayer-Monsanto, ChemChina-Syngenta and Dow-Dupont. Wielding greater political power, these giants could shape policies that are disadvantageous to consumers and farmers.  As Plumer (2016) puts it:

“A handful of powerful and politically connected corporations are determining what is grown, how it is to be grown, what needs to be done to grow it, who grows it and what ends up on the plate.”

Mergers could aggravate market domination that would further expand agrochemical use and the GE crop-pesticide (e.g. Roundup-Ready crops and glyphosate) bundle. The pressure on State Governments to adopt policies that entrench chemical-intensive farming and undermine sustainable agriculture may continue. This is far from what PANAP and UN envision the global agriculture to be in the near future.

While Com. Vestager considers that “Pesticides are products that matter – to farmers, consumers and the environment…” the UNSRs on the right to food, and on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Hilal Elver and  Baskut Tuncak respectively, think otherwise. Taking on PANAP’s perspective, the UNSRs’ report to the UN Human Rights Council’s 34th session states that:

“Pesticides, which have been aggressively promoted, are a global human rights concern, and their use can have very detrimental consequences on the enjoyment of the right to food.
“Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.
“The solution requires a holistic approach to the right to adequate food that includes phasing out dangerous pesticides and enforcing an effective regulatory framework grounded on a human rights approach, coupled with a transition towards sustainable agricultural practices that take into account the challenges of resource scarcity and climate change.”

The 2017 report gives a yearly estimate of 200,000 acute poisoning deaths due to pesticides, 99% of which occur in developing countries. It also details how the excessive use and misuse of pesticides contaminate ecosystems, resulting to the loss of biodiversity, death of beneficial insects, and reduction of the nutritional value of food.

UNSRs Elver and Tuncak’s report redirects the global farming strategy towards agroecology.  It also strengthens the move to make corporations accountable and pay for the damages their products have wrought on people and the environment. The recommendations to have a (i) legally binding global treaty that regulates hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles; and to (ii) place strict liability on pesticide producers, are uplifting.

Dow for one still has to address the case of the Bhopal tragedy victims 16 years after it acquired Union Carbide. It is high time that these agrochemical giants face the consequences of their inaction on the people’s call for justice. Now is payback time.1,2,3,4

Abandoned to poor health care and paltry pay-outs, survivors have fought for three decades for the corporations behind the disaster to be brought to justice in one of the longest people’s struggles in India. (Source: Watch the Bhopal tragedy here.

With the raised awareness of the consumers, the support of the UN, and the continuing groundwork for safe food and healthy environment, such mergers will only fuel the clamor to stop pesticide use in agriculture and will further boost the adoption of safe, environment and people-friendly farming.


Palestinian children are not spared from the illegal dumping of pesticides


Last month a joint APN-PANAP report revealed some gruesome facts of Palestinian children suffering a myriad of health impacts. A young school child has become a victim of blood cancer. Many are asthmatic or have respiratory problems. Generally, these are the common observations among children in towns near the Israeli-operated Geshuri agrochemical manufacturing plant.

Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides because they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a toxin-contaminated environment.

Fatima Al-Zahra’ School’s situation is not different from that of the other schools within 500 metres of the industrial complex. Daily school routines are hindered since the chemical fumes have intensified since February 2016. The noxious gases have made it impossible for the students to carry out physical education classes or morning exercises and oftentimes, students are quarantined during school hours.

The continued operation of the agrochemical plants is in violation of humans’ right to health, safe environment and life. It tramples children’s rights.

Articles 6 and 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that “every child has the inherent right to life,” that the survival and development of the child must be ensured to the “maximum extent possible,” and that “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” must be safeguarded and upheld.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, have stated in their report, “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions, or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge.

“This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agroindustry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics remain unchallenged.”

The rapporteurs have also called for buffer zones to be put in place to safeguard children from the effects of pesticide exposure while waiting for pesticides to be phased out.

We strongly call for the dismantling the Geshuri pesticide factory, and the other factories in the industrial settlements, under the guidance of a team of international and Palestinian experts, in order to prevent further health and environmental damage, and to remediate the land and return it to Palestinians

#StopPoisoningPalestine #PesticidesFreeWorld

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Growing Our Food Without Polluting Our Pristine Water Source With Farmer Fung

Today is World Water Day, and we are featuring the interview of Famer Fung who believes in the principle of living in harmony with nature and growing our food without polluting our pristine water source.

Below are 7 questions we asked Farmer Fung about living in harmony with nature through organic farming.

1. There are a lot of benefits in being an organic farmer, but could you relate some of the wisdom that people tend to overlook in being an organic farmer?
In organic farming one of the great bonuses you get is very soon you will realise that it is not you the farmer that is cultivating the land, but it is the land that is cultivating you. The land – the great provider, great teacher, if you pay attention, you tend to learn a lot from the land and from farms. That tends to make you a more peaceful, relaxed and healthier person.

2. Why many farmers tend to use pesticides instead of using organic means to farming?
Farmers, we are trained today to plan, focus, and to improve on things for better efficiency. So, I must learn to specialize, improve on efficiency, cut down on labour and cost. If I were to use compost, it is going to take 30 days, but if I use those powerful chemical fertilizers, I can cut down by a week. Maybe, for that reason people opt for the chemicals.

3. Do they realize the harm that they are exposing the consumers to?
Not just the consumers, but farmers also lose in terms of their health when exposed to all these chemicals every day. The farm workers are the first to be affected, our soil will be polluted, our water source will be polluted, even the air and (eventually) consumers will be polluted.

4. Nature brings a balance to human life as opposed to chemicals, do you agree?
The chemical that is used here, we can see the effect many, many years down the road, or even many miles down the road. The damage is far and wide. You get a lot of return when you are able to practice this – living in harmony. Nature will provide you with tonnes if you don’t interfere or cause too much damage. It is the good part of organic farming.

5. Why farmers are so hell bent in destroying pests? Is there any other way to approach this issue?
The so-called “pests” are also good neighbours in the sense that they understand what we need – these are not pests. We should not use all the harmful chemicals to kill them. It just does not make sense. But as for weeds, they rob your plants of nutrients, what people don’t understand is that – as there are two sides to a coin – they offer good habitat for other insects and to control other unfriendly insects. So they are helping us.

6. Does that apply to the habitat as well?
During raining season, these weeds help to hold the soil to prevent soil erosion so we should be grateful, whereas during drought, they (weed) provide shade, also to the soil. The microbes in the soil are then happy – it’s nice and cool. If it is too dry, they can’t survive. When microbes are unhappy in the soil, you won’t be a happy farmer as the microbes are unable to help. So the so-called “weed”, it is not necessary to kill. You just need to change your vision on it. You must learn to respect nature and try to learn the good way to live in harmony with nature with other friends: birds, insects etc. So we learn to live with them in harmony. So if there’s harmony, when the yin & yang is balanced, the good and the bad is balanced, then you are a happy farmer. You of course will win some and lose some. There will still be insects that come but not in large numbers, which we understand “they have some and we have some”.

7. Is there a way of planting a single crop and surviving the pest?
Another reason for growing a large number of crops is we crop-rotate. What happens if it is the same crop day in and day out, then a particular kind of nutrient in the soil will be depleted. Soil-bound disease will strike. So what do you do when soil-bound disease is here? You spray with chemical to kill them – again it is the cost and pollution to worry. But our crops here we crop-rotate. Today we plant lettuce, tomorrow it will be legumes, beans, and after that it is celery. Later on, we put compost again. We take care of the soil and don’t force-feed the plants. If you force-feed them with all those powerful chemical fertilizers, they grow fast but the soil tends to be acidic. Then you have to deal with another problem. Our plants here take their own time to grow – naturally – there is a reason for the big guy to create things like that, so before we know it let us not be too arrogant, you know, to decide what should live and what should not live. We should learn and that can be a very happy experience, a great life to learn and to share, to appreciate each other, live in harmony. It is good for everybody.

According to UN Water, “Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.”

We hope the wisdom shared by Farmer Fung, help in raising awareness towards preserving the limited safe water supply that we have. To ensure a safe water supply, we also need to protect our land and air. Only then we can achieve a balance in nature.

Replacing chemicals with agroecology increases Cambodian farmers’ income by four-folds

Despite the bans, restrictions and withdrawals of highly hazardous pesticides over the past few decades in Asia, many workers are still continuously being exposed to highly hazardous pesticides. A recent report has highlighted the sad plight of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. Working in farms that extensively use chemical pesticides, they are not given health-screening guidelines, or language training to understand the Thai warnings on pesticide containers. Most (80%) of them do not wear proper protective clothing.

Backpack sprayers are doubly at risk since they get in contact with the easily absorbed fine vapors. A high 75% of the workers have abnormal blood cholinesterase levels. Indicative of organophosphate pesticide poisoning, their symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In recent years, land conversions have further forced farmers to work as laborers and as pesticide sprayers in Cambodia. A 2015 study by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community shows that at least 200,000 farmers are displaced and dispossessed due to massive conversions and deforestation brought about by rapid agro-industrial development and mining.

Agroecology-based agriculture which is free from pesticides has been documented to offer better option for labor, rural farming communities, and the consumers. Although laborious and may take time, conversion to chemical-free farming must be initiated for it brings about tremendous benefits.

Agroecology frees us from the many consequences of pesticide use such as cancer, endocrine disruption, mental retardation, and organ failures among others. It frees households from the burden of having illnesses that drain not only finances but also emotions as one is left to bear the suffering of having to endure watching loved ones slowly deteriorate. On a larger scale, it frees governments from the “cost of inaction” that may reach billions of dollars.

A recent study by  Scholz  (2016) on the impact of Centre d’Etude et de Développement Agricole Cambodgien’s (CEDAC) interventions found that organic farmers that are part of its network have on average 4.8 times more income compared to non-CEDAC farmers. CEDAC’s organic farming bundle primarily aimed to address rural poverty, includes awareness building on the hazards of pesticides; hands-on training on organic farming and Participatory Guarantee System; and linkage-building with local and international markets.

CEDAC is one of the Pesticide Action Network in the Asia-Pacific’s (PANAP) partner organizations. It’s innovative approach started with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in 1999, which facilitated farmer trainings on organic and good agricultural practices and helped build farmer knowledge. With its success, the SRI was mainstreamed in the Cambodian government’s strategic development plans. CEDAC’s target group consists of subsistence growers who are able to produce a minimum surplus of 500 kg jasmine rice per producer group. As of now, CEDAC is in 22 out of the 25 Cambodian provinces.

One of the farmers who benefited from CEDAC’s and PANAP’s activities is 38-year old Nhem Sovanry who has 1.5 hectares of rice fields and 800 square meters of home garden. Sovanry is very happy to see farmers practice what they have learned, and see how it contributes to their own livelihoods.

“If farmers in Cambodia practice organic farming, families will be self-sufficient just like us. Farmers should understand the basic principles of farming: one has to have a pond (or water source), paddy field, home garden, and animals such as chickens or cows. With these four elements, including hard work, one can be a successful and self-sufficient farmer,” she said.

CEDAC has made organic farming economical by using group certification. Group certification is where farmer groups implement an internal control system and are certified collectively by a third-party certification body. Certified organic rice fetches a premium price and is thus, more profitable to farmers.

“At first, it was difficult to take care of the crops and collect the fertilizers. But the value of the vegetables has grown and the selling price has increased,” said Sovanry happily.

Sovanry and other farmers are part of the independent national farmers’ association network known as the Farmer and Nature Net. This network is comprised of 1,249 village-based farmer associations across 12 provinces in Cambodia that supply products to local farmers’ markets. Stories of Sovanry and 25 women who are taking the lead in agroecology are featured in Stories from the Field.

CEDAC also organized the women vegetable farmers of Kampong Speu province. Through sustainable organic farming, members of the Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group now enjoy better living standards.

(Watch the video of Sovanry and other famers here.)

Ten CEDAC shops have been formed in Phnom Penh as a result of pioneering efforts to link small food producers to the wider market. These shops aim to ensure that safe food is supplied to Cambodian consumers and to improve locally produced food.

Overall, the Cambodian experience shows that organic farming must be coupled with interventions similar to what CEDAC has adopted.  Through the CEDAC approach of replacing chemicals with agroecology and contract farming, we may finally achieve a pesticide-free world.



Kijewki L. 2017. Pesticides pose risk to workers, research finds.

Scholz B. 2016. The economics of organic farming: A comparative analysis in Takeo, Cambodia. A Master’s Thesis submitted to Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany.  85pp

PANAP. 2017. Stories from the Field. Penang, Malaysia.

PANAP 2017. Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group.



UN Special Rapporteur agrees with PANAP’s “Replace Chemicals with Biology” in a legally binding global convention

The report of Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food which was presented during the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) incorporated the findings of PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP).

Elver’s report jointly written together with Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes cited PANAP’s research and extensive studies on the detrimental impacts of pesticide use in the context of human rights violations of pregnant women, communities living near agricultural land and particularly, transgressions against children.

PANAP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam said, “Multiple accounts of pesticide poisonings among children have taken place and continue to persist, largely due to many corporations that are conducting businesses as usual for profits.”

The report acknowledged many untoward incidents among children, from the deaths of 23 children in India in 2013 after consuming monocrotophos (an acutely toxic insecticide) contaminated meals, and the poisoning of 39 preschool children in China in 2014 due to the consumption of food containing rodenticide tetramethylenedisulfotetramine (TETS) residues, to the deaths of 11 children in Bangladesh in 2015 after eating fruits laced with pesticides.

Rengam added, “The price of the corporations’ abhorrent negligence had to be steeply paid by the many lives of young innocent children. These are gross violations of their rights.”

The poisoning cases give a preview of the pesticides’ acute and chronic effects. Research done before and after these events provides sufficient evidence to indict low level exposures to pesticides as a serious threat to health and well-being of children, and the subsequent generations.

“Early-life exposure can damage children’s developing brains and body systems, disrupting mental and physiological growth that can lead to a wide range of diseases and disorders. Pesticides are already considered as ‘silent pandemic’ by public health experts,” cautioned Dr. Meriel Watts, PANAP Senior Science Advisor and author of Poisoning Our Future.

PAN has estimated that the number of people affected annually by short- and long-term pesticide exposure ranged between 1 million and 41 million. However, there is no dependable global statistics from governments or industries on the number of people who suffer from pesticide exposures.

This then raises the question, again, on whether or not pesticide corporations are exerting undue influence on policy makers to downplay the serious threats posed by the products they manufacture and sell. Pesticide manufacturers have the acquired responsibility to protect users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle including through the retail chain, but the report highlights the manufacturers’ failure to meet this responsibility.

As pointed out in the report, in 2014, in Punjab, India, the companies failed to adequately inform farmers about the dangers of their pesticides or the necessary safety measures. This is neither an isolated case nor a one-off incident.

“This report substantiates our claim on the need to move away from industrial agriculture and adopt agroecology for a better future especially for our children,” said Deeppa Ravindran, PANAP’s Protect Our Children campaign coordinator. “We agree with the special rapporteur’s statement: ‘The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading’”. Successful cases of agroecological farming in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and USA, presented in PAN’s book Replacing Chemicals with Biology.

 Given all these severe problems due to the continued use of pesticides, Elver has recommended that, “The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles.”

Among the special rapporteur’s recommendations to further prevent many of the violations of the vulnerable groups similarly reflect PANAP’s approaches to addressing the issue of industrial farming.

Some of the recommendations of the report;

  1. The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles. Such an instrument should:

(a) Aim to remove existing double standards among countries that are particularly detrimental to countries with weaker regulatory systems;

(b) Generate policies to reduce pesticide use worldwide and develop a framework for the banning and phasing-out of highly hazardous pesticides;

(c) Promote agroecology;

(d) Place strict liability on pesticide producers.

  1. States should:

(a) Develop comprehensive national action plans that include incentives to support alternatives to hazardous pesticides, as well as initiate binding and measurable reduction targets with time limits;

(c) Establish impartial and independent risk-assessment and registration processes for pesticides, with full disclosure requirements from the producer. Such processes must be based on the precautionary principle, taking into account the hazardous effects of pesticide products on human health and the environment;

(d) Consider non-chemical alternatives first, and only allow chemicals to be registered where need can be demonstrated;

(e) Enact safety measures to ensure adequate protections for pregnant women, children and other groups who are particularly susceptible to pesticide exposure;

(i) Create buffer zones around plantations and farms until pesticides are phased out, to reduce pesticide exposure risk;

(l) Regulate corporations to respect human rights and avoid environmental damage during the entire life cycle of pesticides;

This is indeed a very important milestone in our efforts to address the assaults especially on vulnerable groups arising from the reckless use of pesticides. Many findings from PANAP’s work, including the report we submitted on behalf of PAN International during the UN Child Rights Conventions for the Day of General Discussion on Children’s Rights, were highlighted in the report.

Contact: Deeppa Ravindran, Pesticides Programme Coordinator,

PAN Vietnam Welcomes the Ban of Paraquat and 2,4-D

Updated 16.March.2017

Two weeks ago, the Vietnamese government officially announced an immediate ban on Syngenta’s paraquat, a highly hazardous pesticide (HHP) and Dow Chemicals’  2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), an organic compound found in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

PAN Vietnam welcomes the Plant Protection Department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to impose the ban upon having weighed in on the different scientific evidences that showed clear harms of the pesticides both on humans and environment.

“We are pleased by the move of the government of Vietnam that has prioritized the health of the Vietnamese people, and we encourage and look forward to more bans of highly hazardous pesticides in Vietnam,” said Nguyen Thi Hoa, Deputy Director of Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, one of the NGOs that forms the coalition of PAN Vietnam.

Nguyen Thi Hoa also added, “This is particularly a significant victory as many rural farmers, women and children are poisoned by herbicides like paraquat and 2,4-D in Vietnam.”

The prohibition on the use of paraquat and 2,4-D herbicides would most certainly safeguard many Vietnamese farmers, women, children and consumers from the detrimental effects of these two HHPs.

However, the ministry would still allow the trade and use of the products for two years under the phase-out period upon imposing the ban.

“We made the transition time two years so that enterprises can gradually eliminate these products,” Hoàng Trung, head of the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said as quoted in Viet Nam News.

Sarojeni Rengam the Executive Director of PANAP said, “ The announcement of the ban is great, but it should happen immediately without the two-year transition period.”

She added, “It should have happened sooner with paraquat as it is known that three teaspoons of it is sufficient to kill a person but we’re extremely happy nonetheless. It is a tremendous step forward and we hope the government would adopt non-chemical alternatives such as agroecology agricultural practices.”


Paraquat also known as Gramoxone as its trade name, has been implicated in the death of about 1,000 people every year in Vietnam.

In the long run, even if one survives paraquat poisoning, the person could still suffer from kidney failure, heart failure, and esophageal strictures (scarring of the swallowing tube that makes it hard for a person to swallow).*1

This HHP which is lethal and can cause acute health implications on a person is also highly toxic particularly to children. Upon exposure, paraquat could adversely affect the proper brain development of a child.

Meanwhile, 2,4-D was one of the two different herbicides  in Agent Orange used extensively by the United States in Vietnam during the war from 1961 to 1971. Although, the 2,4,5-T herbicide and not 2,4-D was identified as the reason for the vast amount of suffering associated with Agent Orange, according to WHO, 2,4-D is a possible carcinogen.


“A 2015 report  by PAN Vietnam  has revealed that farmers in Vietnam are not aware of the long term impacts of paraquat on health and environment. Pesticides sprayers especially are further impacted due to poverty (pesticides – dependent livelihoods) that exposes them to the many dangers of pesticides,” said Dr. Nguyen Van Kien, Director of the Research Center for Rural Development, An Giang University (RCRD).

Another report by the Women’s Pioneer Group  revealed that in the north of Vietnam, there are more women involved in agricultural work who are using pesticides in the fields compared to the South of Vietnam. Women are especially further impacted due to low literacy rates that exposes them to the many dangers of pesticides.

“More women are involved in agriculture in Hai Hau as men have left to the capital for work.  This is a concern because women are also highly susceptible to the effects of pesticides. Physically, they have higher absorption through skin and more body fat, and are further affected through reproductive impacts.

“Additionally, poverty and malnutrition intensify the effects of pesticides,” said Nguyen Kim Thuy, Executive Director of Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED).

Paraquat sprayed in fields in Vietnam

Due to the severity of the paraquat poisonings, the issue has been brought to a Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations. This session was organised by PAN International in India in 2011 and the proceedings were published here.

During the proceedings, a Malaysian pesticide sprayer, Nagama Raman affected by paraquat exposure provided her testimonial.

She highlighted her ongoing health problems due to the pesticide exposure and the many harassments and intimidations she had to deal with because of the complaints she raised due to the use of the pesticide.

As for now paraquat is banned in over 38 countries due to its severe impacts on human health. This latest ban comes after many years of hard work of organizations like Research Center for Rural Development, CGFED and SRD, collectively making PAN Vietnam.

In 2013, PAN Vietnam highlighted the impacts of paraquat in a national seminar and on national television . Pham Kim Ngoc, consultant from CGFED as seen on the national Vietnamese Television.

Children are exposed to herbicides in Vietnam


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  1. Facts about paraquat

Global Management of Chemicals Beyond 2020

by Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Feb 19th 2017

When nearly 400 delegates met in Brasilia recently to discuss how to manage chemicals beyond 2020, there was a surprising degree of accord that the current multi-stakeholder approach should be preserved in whatever arrangement is arrived at. That means NGOs like PAN would continue to participate in the process as equal partners.

Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Why Beyond 2020? Because the current UN Environment-based Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) expires in 2020. It was supposed to have met its target of sound chemicals management by 2020. Obviously it has not, or pesticide poisoning would not still be occurring.

Despite the accord on the multi-stakeholder approach, there was not a similar accord on whether or not the new approach should be voluntary or legally binding. Considerable interest was shown in a paper recently released by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which discussed amongst other things the idea of an overarching global convention on chemicals management that would scoop together all the existing conventions under one convention. One of its author’s, Sabaa Khan, was at the meeting and such was the interest in the proposal the African Region asked for a special session with her and emerged from it supporting a legally binding convention. NGOs, Africa and others asked the secretariat to prepare a paper on governance options for the next meeting in the series that lead up to the decision in 2020 on what to do next.

Although individual chemical issues where not on the agenda, PAN Asia Pacific did succeed in raising the failure of SAICM to deal with the problem of Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHPs), especially their impact on children and human rights.

A number of countries echoed our concern, referring to problems they were having with pesticides – no doubt this support was in part because, unusually, officials from health ministries where present to compliment the usual environment ministries – thanks to the World Health Organisation (WHO). CropLife’s comment that there was no need for any extra tools to manage HHPs (although they “didn’t deny the issue is serious”) so incensed the delegate from South Africa that she quotably stated: “HHPs should not even be in the bucket in the first place”. We agree!

PAN and IPEN also drew attention to need to address the special vulnerability of women to chemicals and succeeded, with the support of other delegates, in getting the secretariat to provide a discussion paper on this for the next meeting, in March 2018.

The whole context for chemicals management beyond 2020 will be embedded in the AGENDA 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, many of which strongly reflect the need for work on HHPs and their replacement with agroecology. Sustainable development cannot succeed whilst the current model of chemical intensive farming continues to dominate.

Global Governance of Hazardous Pesticides to Protect Children: Beyond 2020

Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific
January 2017

This paper outlines PAN Asia Pacific’s concern about the impact of hazardous pesticides on children, and the need for greatly improved global governance of pesticides post 2020, to protect the rights of children and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030.

Noting that:

  1. ICCM4 recognised highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) as an issue of concern, acknowledging that they “cause adverse human health and environmental effects in many countries, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries”, and supported concerted action to address them, encouraging an emphasis on promoting agroecologically-based alternatives (SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.16);
  2. At ICCM4, 31 countries and organizations called for a Global Alliance to Phase Out HHPs (SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.4);
  3. At ICCM3, a proposal to ban HHPs was introduced (SAICM/ICCM.3/CRP.16) and supported by at least 65 countries and organisations;
  4. In 2006, the FAO Council recommended that, in order to implement SAICM, activities to reduce risk could include a progressive ban on highly hazardous pesticides;
  5. he 2006 SAICM high-level Dubai Declaration “recognizes the need to make special efforts to protect those groups in society that are particularly vulnerable to risks from hazardous chemicals or are highly exposed to them” and states that “we are determined to protect children and the unborn child from chemical exposures that impair their future lives,” (clauses 23 and 24);
  6. That children’s exposure to life-impairing highly hazardous pesticides continues unabated;

PAN Asia Pacific calls upon SAICM in its intercessional process to develop a mechanism to be adopted by ICCM5 for global governance of pesticides and phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides, with special attention to the rights and needs of children.


1. National governance of pesticides is inadequate

National regulatory processes and government policies fail to protect children from pesticides due to the (i) inadequacy of pesticide registration processes to assess the real effects of pesticides on children; (ii) weak monitoring systems; and (iii) the assumption by most state governments that hazardous pesticides are essential for crop production. These failures stem from the lack of political will to question norms and apply the precautionary principle, despite the latter’s widespread inclusion in a number of international conventions and treaties, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Tragedies like those of Bhopal, Kasargod, Kamukhaan and Silvino Talavera will continue to be repeated until measures are taken to put a stop to the use of highly hazardous pesticides.

Tragedies caused by the failure of states to protect communities from toxic pesticides

Bhopal tragedy (India)

About 45 tons of methyl-isocyanate gas leaked from Union Carbide Corporation’s chemical plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh at around 1:00 AM on December 3, 1984 immediately killing about 3,800 people mostly in the slum area adjacent to the plant. The estimated death toll was 10,000, with close to 20,000 premature deaths occurring in the subsequent two decades (Sharma 2005). Epidemiological studies conducted soon after the accident revealed significant increases in the incidence of pregnancy loss, infant mortality, decreased fetal weight, chromosomal abnormalities, and impaired associate learning/motor speed/precision, ocular and respiratory illnesses. Many of the exposed population gave birth to physically and mentally disabled children (Dhara & Dhara 2002).

Kasargod endosulfan tragedy (India)

The state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala carried out trials on aerial spraying of endosulfan in 1977-78 in its 45,000-hectare cashew plantation in Kasargod. Regular aerial spraying 2 to 3 times per year commenced in 1981 and caused disabilities in the villagers and domestic animals of Padre, Enmakaje. Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (1994) reported that the disability rate among the people was 73% higher than the overall disability rates for the entire state. Locomotor disability and mental retardation was 107% higher (Quijano 2002).

A total of 197 cases from 123 households, were documented to have cancer, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy, congenital anomalies and psychiatric disorders. The cancers include abdominal, uterine, liver and neuroblastoma. A community survey estimated 9,500 victims in the district (Irshad & Joseph 2015). Among the many victims are Shruti, born with a twisted leg and only four fingers in each hand, with those on her right hand malformed; and Vishnu Batt, who is developmentally delayed, stunted in growth and with deformed legs (Sundaram 2015).

Kamukhaan tragedy (Philippines)

A community of 700 individuals in Davao del Sur, Kamukhaan had rich natural resources until the entry of Lapanday Agricultural Development Corporation banana plantation in 1981. Large doses of pesticides are sprayed aerially 2-3 times a month sweeping through the entire plantation and the village. During spraying, the strong and odorous fumes blanket the community. Fumes sting the villagers’ eyes, make their skin itch, suffocate and make them weak and nauseous.

The plantation also ground-sprays the bananas with highly hazardous Furadan (carbofuran) and Nemacur (fenamiphos). Rains bring pesticide-riddled water into the village where it rises up to as high as waist level. It contaminates the river and the sea resulting in fish kills. It poisons the land so that the coconut trees stopped bearing fruit and livestock die. Villagers who unavoidably wade in the water and the children who play in it get ill. Infants are born with a range of abnormalities, from cleft palate to badly disfigured bodies, and with impaired mental and physical development, and some die at birth or shortly after (Quijano 1999).

Silvino Talavera’s death (Paraguay)

On January 2, 2003, 11-year old Silvino cycled to buy some meat and rice. He got sprayed with pesticides used for soy monoculture on his way back. He immediately washed in the river but was hospitalized that day together with his family who fell ill after eating the food Silvino brought home. Silvino returned from the hospital on January 6, but on the same day, another soy producer sprayed 15 meters from their house.

Silvino lost consciousness and was brought to the hospital with three brothers and 20 villagers. Silvino was pronounced dead the following day. His family suffers many health problems (lung, stomach problems, allergies, headaches and bone aches) as a result of the continuous pesticide exposure (Radio Mundo Real 2010).

2. Existing global governance is inadequate

Global governance of pesticides is weak and fragmented. It relies heavily
on the voluntary International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management (FAO & WHO 2014) that, under its former title of the FAO Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, was first agreed in 1985. Despite name changes, revisions, and the development of guidelines, there are widespread violations of this Code by industry and some governments. Additionally, the Code and its guidelines fail to include environment impacts such as pollinator decline and other biodiversity losses.

In addition to the Code, two binding UN Conventions address a limited number of pesticides. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants bans a small number of mostly obsolete pesticides that are deemed to be POPs.1 The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent in Trade of Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides has the requirement for information on, and agreement to the import of, listed pesticides (33 to date, of which 9 are also listed under the Stockholm Convention).

Additionally, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions address issues related to children’s occupational exposure to pesticides:

  • Under ILO Convention 138, the minimum legal age for children to be employed in hazardous work, which includes exposure to pesticides, is 18.
  • ILO Convention 182 forbids children being involved in “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO 2011).

Yet nearly 70% of the 215 million child laborers worldwide work in agriculture – around 150 million children. In some countries, children under the age of 10 make up 20% of the rural child labour force (ILO 2006, 2011).

In Mali, as much as 50% of the work force in some cotton areas are children; in Kazakhstan, that figure rises to 60%; and, in Egypt, as many as 1 million children between the ages of 7 and 12 are employed to help with pest management in cotton crops (EJF 2007).

Despite these existing mechanisms, a large number of highly hazardous pesticides remain in use especially in low income countries where unacceptably high levels of exposure and poisoning continue to occur (see below). Many of the working children use or are exposed to HHPs. As workers, they have little if any information about, or control over, the types of pesticides they are using or even to stop applying these pesticides. The lack of protective equipment – ill-adapted to hot tropical weather conditions, not suitable for children, and rarely used – contributes to pesticide poisoning.

One indication of the significant failure of governance at both national and global level is that there is still very little understanding of the extent of even acute poisoning by pesticides, let alone chronic impacts on health, or the environment. The recent paper by the Nordic Council of Ministers (2017) –

Global Governance of Chemicals and Waste – when stating “It is estimated that excessive exposure to and inappropriate use of pesticides contribute to poisoning a minimum of 3 million people per year” used a seemingly up-to-date reference, UNEP 2016.

However, UNEP in turn referenced a paper published in 1990 (Jeyaratnam 1990), which was based on information from a study undertaken in two Asian countries in the 1980s. Despite these severe limitations, the Jeyaratnam paper is still the most authoritative estimate of global acute pesticide poisonings which is a very real indication of the lack of attention to this problem at the global level. Jeyaratnam actually used the figure 3 million as an estimate of hospitalised cases of pesticide poisoning, and estimated that there could be as many as 25 million poisonings in developing countries alone, per year. There is no reason to assume that poisoning levels are any less now:

“In Central America, PAHO has tracked a steady increase in acute pesticide poisoning cases each year for the past two decades, and this trend closely parallels upward trends in pesticide imports …. Acute pesticide poisoning is widespread in Latin America, and PAHO estimates that acute pesticide poisoning cases are underreported by 50-80%” (Laborde et al 2015).

There is no clue as to how many children are affected by pesticides each year, but indications are that the number would be unacceptably high.

International conventions and national regulations are inter-linked and the former can facilitate change at the national level, while strong national policies can promote strong leadership in international conventions.

3. Pesticide use must be addressed to meet Sustainable Development Goals

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (UN General Assembly 2015) without addressing the global problems with pesticides will be impossible, particularly SDG 3

“Ensure healthy lives and promote well -being for all at all ages”, because of the ongoing poisoning of children, workers, families and communities, the contamination of food and drinking water, pollution of all environmental media, loss of biodiversity and destabilisation of ecosystems.

The continued adherence to an industrial system of agriculture based on highly hazardous pesticides that poison and pollute, long after this system has been widely revealed to be not in the best interests of countries, farmers, communities, consumers and the environment2, will also prevent the realisation of the following additional SDGs:

• Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
• Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
• Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
• Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
• Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
• Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
• Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
• Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
• Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

The high-level concern about industrial agriculture, and information on why the SDGs are more able to be met by agroecological means of production, as recommended by ICCM4, than by industrial production can be found in PAN’s book Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology. This is an open-access book produced specifically for the SAICM discussions on HHPs.3

4. Unabated use of hazardous pesticides violate human and especially children’s rights

The Nordic Council of Ministers (2017) rightly points out that the Dubai Declaration makes only one mention of human rights, and fails to mention children’s rights. They conclude that

“a stronger link should be formed between chemicals and waste and socio-economic questions, including human rights and the health of vulnerable populations such as children”. PAN Asia Pacific supports this view.

WHO, in its Constitution declares “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” and recognises the child’s healthy development as of basic importance. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, reiterates children’s entitlement to special care and assistance “by reason of [their] physical and mental immaturity…before as well as after birth”. Proactive measures must be in place to “diminish infant and child mortality” (UNCRC 1989).

In the same vein, the Stockholm Convention acknowledges that “health concerns … resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants … impacts upon women and, through them, upon future generations.”

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) adopted the concept of inter-generational equity, noting that the effects of certain chemicals are irreversible and have potential to compromise the health and well-being of future generations. It also recognised that life, health and environment are intertwined. The destruction of ecosystems deprives succeeding generations of rich natural resources – it threatens their livelihood, production of safe food and general well-being. The UN Economic and Social Council Report on Human Rights and the Environment (Ksentini 1994) directly linked the right to a safe and healthy environment to the right to life.

The right to life is a “supreme right”, without which no other rights would be meaningful (UDHR Article 3, ICCPR Article 6, UNEP 2016). The Bhopal, Kasargod and Kamukhaan tragedies have led to the suffering and death of countless men, women and children. Silvino Talavera’s death brought to fore children’s greater susceptibility to the hazards of pesticides. Yet, State Parties who should “ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child” and “take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children” (UNCRC 1989 Articles 6&24) have not taken their role to heart.

The unabated use of HHPs is in violation of humans’ right to health, safe environment and life. Children’s rights are especially trampled since they are most vulnerable to toxins.

5. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides

The developing foetus and small children are extremely vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals as they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a toxin-contaminated environment. Early-life exposure can damage the developing brain and body systems, disrupting mental and physiological growth that leads to a range of diseases and disorders (Watts 2013).

Exposure to pesticides that are mutagenic and/or teratogenic, and are transmitted either across the placenta to the foetus or though breast milk to infants, pose developmental risks to children:

  • The aerial spraying of endosulfan, a known neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor and mutagen, for 20 years over cashew nut plantations in Kerala resulted in a large number of serious diseases and conditions that particularly affected children in the vicinity of the plantation, including neurological, developmental and reproductive conditions and cancers (NIOH 2002).
  • Nearly 30 years after the Bhopal tragedy, deformities and other development problems are still observed among children (News Asia 2014).
  • The environment and the farmworker community of Lake Apopka in Florida, USA were exposed to POPs pesticides aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, DDT and toxaphene for over 50 years. Children from the second and third generation of those who were exposed now suffer chronic diseases (Farmworker Association of Florida 2006).

Pesticides are now considered by public health experts to be causing a silent pandemic through their neurodevelopmental impacts and negative effects on the health and intelligence of children (Watts 2013, Lanphear 2015). Such pandemic can be stopped only by protecting children from exposure to toxins.

More information on the impacts of pesticides on children can be found in Annex 1 to this paper and in Watts (2013).

6. Children’s exposure to pesticides is undeniable and unacceptable

Toxins are readily transferred across the placenta from the mother to the developing foetus (Daston et al 2004). Pregnant women’s exposure leads to foetal exposure. Evidence of in utero exposure include the detection of (i) seven pesticides and their metabolites in the umbilical cord blood of up to 83% of the infants (Whyatt et al 2003), and (ii) residues in the first faeces of newborns (Ostrea et al 2006).

Children are exposed through their food. Infants in Bhopal were found to consume through breast milk, 8.6 times more endosulfan than the WHO-recommended daily intake levels, as well as chlorpyrifos, HCH, malathion, and methyl parathion (Sanghi et al 2003). In Assam, India breast milk was found to contain high levels of DDT and DDE, and high levels of HCH with 100% of samples exceeding the WHO guideline (Mishra & Sharma 2011). Breastfeeding should be maintained because, despite the residues, it confers health benefits to both the infant and mother. However, breastmilk should not contain pesticides so any pesticides that are found in breastmilk should be removed from the market.

Metabolites of organophosphates (OPs) were found in the urine of 99% of urban pre-school children in Seattle, USA. The metabolites were present even in those whose parents did not use pesticides, indicating that at least some of them came from diet (Lu et al 2001). Proof of exposure resulting from pesticide residues in conventionally-produced food is provided by the decrease in urinary levels of chlorpyrifos and malathion metabolites in children after they converted to organic diets (Lu et al 2006, 2008).

Another route of exposure is through pesticide drift. A study of one pesticide, atrazine, showed that drift can travel 600 to 1000 miles after application and stay in the soil for up to 100 days (LSP & PANNA 2010), putting untold millions at risk.

  • Farm children in Malaysia have depressed blood cholinesterase levels indicating OP insecticide exposure (How 2014).
  • About 47% of Orang Asli children of Selangor, Malaysia have traces of OP metabolites in their urine (Sutris et al 2016).
  • School children poisonings in Mendocino and Ventura Counties in California, USA (Kegley et al 2003), Davao del Norte, Philippines (Inquirer 2006), Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (Watts 2013) and most recently in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia (KEMI 2015) were due to pesticides.
  • A documented case of a healthy child becoming mentally handicapped at the age of three while playing during an aerial spray in Davao del Sur, Philippines (PANAP 2017).

Exposures are likely to be high where household insecticide use or pest extermination occurs, where pesticides are used on lawns or home garden, or where public health fogging is done to control human disease-bearing vectors like mosquitoes (Watts 2013).

The application of shampoo containing permethrin or lindane to treat head lice and vector control in schools or at home further expose children to pesticides.

Pesticides exposure is aggravated by poverty as malnutrition can worsen pesticide effects. This is compounded by racial and ethnic discrimination and even casteism that are interlinked with increased inequality, ensuring that these communities are kept disempowered, poor, invisible, unable to address the problems that come with pesticides, and lacking resources to change their farming to organic or agroecology. The majority of child labourers exposed to HHPs come from these communities.

Pesticide residues in food and water in Asia

A Nordic project (Skretteber et al 2014) showed the presence of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables from the Southeast Asian countries with residues most frequently found in guava, pitaya, chili pepper, chives and basil. Of the 111 different pesticides found in the samples, the insecticides cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, and the fungicides carbendazin/benomyl and metalaxyl were the most frequently detected.

Thai-PAN (Atthakor 2016) through multi-residue pesticide screens conducted by UK-based laboratories, found similar results in the market-sold vegetables and fruits in Thailand. Residues of banned carbofuran and methomyl were detected in cucumbers and mandarins, with all mandarin and guava sampled found to be too dangerous to eat. All chilies tested were contaminated.

India’s Ministry of Agriculture found pesticide residues in 800 food samples and residue exceeding permissible levels in 46 percent of the samples in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2015 (Rao 2016). A comprehensive review of food pesticide contamination studies in seven cities of Pakistan (Faheem et al 2015) showed that there are samples of fruits, vegetables and meat that exceed the maximum residues level. Testing of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute also showed traces of the pesticide glyphosate (Business Insider 2016).

In the Phillipines (Bajet 2015), carbaryl was detected in all vegetables tested while chlorpyrifos was found in 63% of the samples. Other pesticides detected were malathion, carbofuran, methomyl, traizophos, profenos, and diazinon. Vegetables tested include pechay, tomato, eggplant and green beans.

Pesticides have contaminated the water resource of at least six villages in northern Laos where villagers were found getting sick from drinking water (Radio Free Asia 2014). Organochlorine pesticide residues were also found in the surface water of Bertam and Terla Rivers in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (Abdullah et al 2015), in the rivers of China (Tan et al 2009, Zhou et al 2006), India (Malik et al 2009), Korea (Kim et al 2009), Vietnam (Hung & Thiemann 2002) and Thailand (Poolpak et al 2008; Samoh & Ibrahim 2009).

7. Pesticide poisoning of Asian children

Numerous cases of child poisoning occur throughout the world but are particularly high in Asia, where pesticides banned in the developed countries are still in use. Below is a brief synopsis of some recent cases.

In 2015, 12 children in Bangladesh aged 2 to 6 developed symptoms of pesticide poisoning including fever, convulsions and unconsciousness after eating pesticide-laced litchis (The Daily Star 2015). Eleven died shortly after. This was not an isolated incident as 14 children also shared the same fate in 2012 (The Daily Star 2012).

In Oddar Meanchey province, 67 villagers including 49 children were poisoned after eating meat and vegetables kept in inadequately washed metal tubs previously used to hold pesticide for cassava trees (The Phnom Penh Post 2013).

Insecticide-tainted cucumbers caused the mass poisoning of 610 villagers, 440 of whom are children, during an anti-child trafficking event for local school children in Siem Reap Province (Khmer Times 2015).

From initial fact finding missions by PANAP and the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (PANAP 2016), children in rural Cambodia are often exposed to brain-harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos and the potential cancer-causing herbicide glyphosate during school hours.

Thirty-nine preschool children in China were poisoned, two of whom died, after consuming tetramethylenedisulfotetramine or TETS-contaminated food (Liberty Voice 2014). Although banned in the early 1990s, this rodenticide is widely used due to its availability and low cost.

A three-year old Filipina together with another Filipino, died after inhaling toxic gas from banned aluminium phosphide which leaked through the AC duct of their Dubai apartment. The girl’s parents and four others were also hospitalised. The hospital report established the presence of phosphine gas in the victims’ bodies (Emirates 24/7 News 2014).

At least 27 children in India aged 4 to 12, were killed after eating their mid-day meal (The Times of India 2013). Forensic examination showed the presence of high toxic levels of monocrotophos, a highly hazardous pesticide. WHO had urged India to ban monocrotophos in 2009.

Previous incidents (The Times of India 2013) include: (i) the acute poisoning of 32 school children in 2002 due to the use of phorate in Kerala banana plantation; (ii) poisoning of students in 2006 brought about by phorate use in a Punjab sugarcane field; (ii) 30 schoolchildren falling ill in an agricultural field in West Bengal in 2005; (iii) hospitalisation of a 3 year-old child of Muktsar district after consuming pesticide-contaminated food; and (iv) death of a Safdipur village boy after drinking pesticide-contaminated water.

Carbamate-laden food caused severe poisoning of more than 30 people aged 2 to 71 in Siputeh, Batu Gajah (The Malay Mail 2016). The pesticide was found in food stall samples of nasi lemak sambal, kuey teow goreng, kuih bom and cucur badak.
Children aged 10 to 11 living near rice paddies were found chronically poisoned by an organophosphate (Hashim & Baguma 2015). The children had poor motor skills, poor hand/eye coordination, attention speed and perceptual motor speed.

The intentional contamination of baked goods and candies with pesticides due to an alleged business dispute resulted in the death of at least 33 people, including five children (Mail Online 2016). A chemical examination indicated the presence of chlorfenapyr in the laddu, a baked confection.

8. Double standards embedded in pesticide trade exacerbates violation of children’s rights

The existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed countries to developing countries is still prevalent and involves both the export of hazardous pesticides and the transfer of production facilities.

Numerous highly hazardous pesticides, such as paraquat, are produced in and exported from countries that do not allow their use. This situation is intensified by the lack of resources for prevention and control of pesticides in developing countries and lack of legislation and inspection by governments. Overall, this factor further contributes to the continued impact of pesticides on children’s health and well-being.

Only one country in Asia is known to prohibit the importation of pesticides that are banned in their home country: Palestine (Watts et al. 2016). Additionally, the Palestinian Authority actively confiscates pesticides illegally imported into the Occupied West Bank, including those not registered in their country of origin. This small territory, struggling against immense odds, can be a role model for the rest of the world in this respect.

Many of the pesticides banned in developed countries are still in use in developing countries. Annex 2 provides information on 21 pesticides highly hazardous to children that are still in use in many countries of Asia-Pacific.

Recommendations for protecting children from HHPs

1. SAICM develop a proposal for ICCM5 for a mechanism for global governance of pesticides, incorporating human rights measures, to enable the Agenda 2030 SDGs to be met and to ensure children’s rights are met.
2. Countries cease operating under a double standard with regard to pesticides, i.e. prevent the export of pesticides that are not registered for use in their own country due to health and environmental considerations.
3. Pesticide companies abide by all aspects of the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, but most especially do not allow their pesticides that require personnel protective equipment (PPE) to be exported to or used in countries where local conditions make the use of PPE impractical.
4. Countries and industry should ensure that the availability and use of pesticides does not violate children’s rights.
5. WHO instigate a major project, in collaboration with countries and other stakeholders, to identify the global incidence of pesticide poisoning and the pesticides causing the most problems.
6. Uphold the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health guaranteed in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and investigate the human/children’s right violations of corporations.

Prepared by PAN Asia Pacific.
For more information: Deeppa Ravindran, (, PAN Asia Pacific.

Annex 1. Impact of pesticides on children

Pesticides cause coma and death

Symptoms of acute poisoning in children vary with the type of pesticide, but for the commonly used organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates, they include fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dry throat and difficulty breathing, stinging eyes, itchy skin, and a burning nose; and muscular symptoms like stiffness and weakness. Death can occur rapidly, or over the course of a few weeks (Goldman 2004). In the case of Silvino, death came within 24 hours due to massive exposure. Other symptoms that may occur are seizures, paralysis, coma, depression, inarticulate speech, memory loss, rapid pulse, anxiety, involuntary twitching, sweating, difficulty in walking, and uncontrolled urination (Watts 2013, Rengam et al 2007).

Pesticides cause birth defects

Dimethoate, carbaryl, benomyl, captan, maneb, mancozeb, propiconazole, paraquat and 2,4-D are teratogenic (Garry et al 1996, Garcia 2003). Parental exposure has been associated with congenital abnormalities (Magoon 2006, de Siqueira et al 2010) including abnormally placed urinary opening on penis, absence of one or both testes (Kristensen et al 1997, Carbone et al 2006, Rocheleau et al 2009), micropenis (Gaspari et al 2011a), missing or reduced limbs (Schwartz et al 1986, Schwartz & LoGerfo 1988), anencephaly (Lacasana et al 2006), spina bifida (Brender et al 2010), and congenital heart disease (Yu et al 2008). The critical period of maternal exposure to pesticides is from the month before conception and the first trimester (Nurminen et al 1995, Garcia et al 1998). The critical period for paternal exposure is during the three months prior to conception (Brouwers et al 2007, Pierik et al 2004). Parental exposure has been linked to stillbirths (Goulet & Theriault 1991, Rupa et al 1991, Taha & Gray 1993, Nurminem et al 1995, Pastore et al 1997, Medina-Carrilo et al 2002). One study found that agricultural workers exposed to OPs had significantly increased sperm chromosome nullisomy involving the sex chromosomes, increasing the risk of genetic syndromes such as Turner syndrome (Garry 2004).

The most striking evidence that pesticides cause birth defects is Shruti of Kasargod, India who manifested deformities of hands, feet and other skeletal abnormalities among other congenital diseases of the heart, brain and eyes, from parental exposure to endosulfan. The congenital problems were observed to be more prevalent in girls (NIOH 2002, Quijano 2002).

Pesticides damage the brain

Voluminous studies (Watts 2013) have linked parental pesticide exposure – e.g. DDT, DDE, metolachlor, lindane – to low birth weight and decreased head circumference of children. In his review of the impact of toxins on the developing brain, Lanphear (2015) declared that “we are in the midst of an epidemic of brain-based disorders” and that “learning disabilities and mental disorders are now two of the most prevalent morbidities in children.” He drew a strong link between exposure to environmental toxins and neuropathy. The fetus or newborn lacks critical enzymes to metabolize toxins, such as PON1, that is known to metabolize OPs.

Neurotoxic OPs may be a key factor in ADHD. Animal studies have shown OPs cause cognitive deficits and hyperactivity (Bouchard et al 2010, Marks et al 2010). Pesticides are now regarded as one of the culprits in autism, with both OPs and organochlorines listed in the top ten causes (Landrigan et al 2012). Rowe et al (2016) found that residential proximity to areas that use OP and carbamate pesticides during pregnancy is associated with poorer cognitive functioning in children at 10 years of age. Bellinger (2012) identified OPs as responsible for the significant lowering of IQ across the whole US population.

Newborn infants in New York, exposed in utero to chlorpyrifos from household use, were found to have delayed cognitive and psychomotor development. Those most exposed had significantly more attention problems, ADHD and pervasive developmental disorder at three years of age (Rauh et al 2006, Gulson 2008). It was found that these effects were independent of socio-economic factors (Lovasi et al 2011). It was further found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos alter children’s brain structure (Rauh et al 2012).

Pesticides cause cancer

There is an increasing amount of epidemiological evidence (Watts 2013) that both direct childhood exposures and parental exposures to pesticides are associated with childhood cancer such as leukaemia, brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, and Wilm’s tumour. Others include soft-tissue sarcoma, colorectal cancer, germ cell cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, eye cancer, renal and liver tumors, thyroid cancer, and melanoma.

Meta-analysis studies confirm the hazards of pesticides

A recent review (Marquez et al 2016) of meta-analysis studies confirmed that: (i) pesticide exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of cancer outcomes in a child; (ii) parental exposure before conception for both parents increases risk of leukemia and brain tumors in children; (iii) a father’s occupational pesticide exposure before conception is strongly linked to increased cancer risk in his children, suggesting damage to developing sperm; and (iv) living in rural agricultural areas increases risk of childhood leukemia.

While the review focused on studies investigating childhood cancer outcomes, Marquez et al. noted several studies that found links between prenatal or childhood pesticide exposures and incidence of cancers later in life, e.g. girls exposed to DDT before they reach puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age (Cohn et al 2007), and that in utero DDT exposure increases breast cancer risk (Cohn et al 2015).

Annex 2. Pesticides highly hazardous to children still in use in the Asia-Pacific

Pesticide Type Primary Crops/Use Hazards to Children No. of countries where banned*
Atrazine Herbicide Corn, soy, sorghum, sugarcane Birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant 37
Carbaryl Insecticide Tomatoes, eggplants, olives, oranges, apples Birth defects, cancer,  endocrine disruption, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant,  immunotoxicant 32
Chlorothalonil Fungicide Potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes Cancer,  endocrine disruption, immune and developmental effects 2
Chlorpyrifos Insecticide Cotton, corn, oranges, bananas, apples, vegetables


Acute poisoning, birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immune and predisposal to obesity and diabetes 1
Cypermethrin Insecticide Onions, garlic, lettuce, broccoli, cereals/grains, oilseeds, fruits Acute poisoning, cancer,  endocrine disruption, behavioral effects and delayed mental development, Parkinson’s disease later in life 0
DDT Insecticide Mosquito control Endocrine disruption,  neurotoxicant, predisposal to obesity and diabetes 68
Deltamethrin Insecticide Carrots, corn, rice, spinach, wheat Cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immunotoxicant 0
Diazinon Insecticide Chinese Kale, Tomatoes, spinach, apples, peaches Acute poisoning, cancer, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption, predisposition to diabetes and Parkinson’s disease 29
Dichlorvos Insecticide Beans, brassica seedlings, structural & commodity fumigation, poultry houses Acute poisoning, cancer, neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, predisposition to diabetes and Parkinson’s disease 30
Lambda-cyhalothrin Insecticide Hay, pistachios, rice, lettuce, soy, wheat Acute poisoning, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant 28
Malathion Insecticide Rice, mango, eggplant, lettuce Acute poisoning, birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, predisposition to ADHD, diabetes and obesity 1
Mancozeb Fungicide Potatoes, banana, lettuce, Asian pear Acute poisoning, allergic sensitization, birth defects, cancer, developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, 1
Maneb Fungicide Potatoes, banana, lettuce, broccoli Acute poisoning, behavioral effects, birth defects, cancer,  developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, predisposition to Parkinson’s disease 1
Methamidophos Insecticide Cotton, rice, citrus, maize, grapes, soybeans, tobacco, vegetables, hops, peaches, bananas, pineapple Acute poisoning, behavioral effects, death, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant 47
Methyl parathion Insecticide Walnuts, potatoes, grapes Neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption 26
Monocrotophos Insecticide Cotton, rice, pulses, groundnuts, tomatoes, eggplants, mangoes, grapes, chilies, cardamom, coconut, oil palms, coffee, tea, castor, citrus, olives, maize, sorghum, sugar cane, sugar beet, pea, potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, mustard, onion, pepper, ornamentals, tobacco Birth defects, cancer,  endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, possible immunotoxicant 57
Paraquat Herbicide Cotton, oil palms, bananas, grapes, cereals, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables Acute poisoning, death, endocrine disruption, immunological effects, neurotoxicant, implicated in diabetes 35
Parathion Insecticide Cereals, fruit, nuts, vines, vegetables, ornamentals, cotton, field crops Acute poisoning, death, birth defects, cancer,  neurotoxicant, immunotoxicant, predisposition to diabetes and obesity 26
Permethrin Insecticide Pistachios, lettuce, cotton, wheat, maize, alfalfa, vector control Cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immunological effects 29
Propoxur Insecticide Structural, landscape

Sugar cane, cocoa, grapes, maize, rice, vegetables, cotton, alfalfa, forestry, ornamentals

Acute poisoning, cancer,  developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, immunosuppressant 29
Glyphosate Herbicide Rice, Soy, corn, cotton, canola, oil palm Birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, kidney damage, implicated in Parkinson’s disease 1

For the full PAN International list of Highly Hazardous Pesticides and the full PAN International Consolidated List of Bans (PAN CL), see;

* The PAN CL is not complete, as many countries do not publish lists of banned pesticides, and/or do not notify the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention, which is the only international body that keeps track of such bans.

Not banned in any country, but is not approved in the European Union.



1 Current use pesticides covered by the Stockholm Convention are DDT, lindane and endosulfan.

2 See for example: the 2009 IAASTD – International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
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3 Watts MA and Williamson S. 2015. Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing our Highly Hazardous Pesticides with agroecology. Pesticide Action Network International, Penang.



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Communities Push For Petition to keep pesticides out of schools in Asia

A petition demanding state governments to set up buffer zones around schools to protect children from the effects of pesticide drift was launched on November 20, 2016 on the occasion of International Children’s Day by PANAP and its partners.

For a #PesticidesFreeWorld both for the children & environment.-Source: PANAP

A month after the launch, the petition has garnered 449 individual signatories. The petition will go on until June 2017 hoping to reach even greater number of supporters of close to one million to push governments in the region to make them realize the gravity of the problem and make them take action.

This is important because our schools are no longer safe. They are becoming silent killing fields for children especially those in rural areas.Pesticide drift was behind the recent poisoning of 30 school children in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia. Children have also been poisoned in the US (Mendocino and Ventura Counties, California), the Philippines (Davao del Norte), and Sri Lanka (NuwaraEliya District).

Children are slowly dying before us. To make matters worse, there are no proper laws or regulations to monitor the use and harm of pesticides on children. This is alarming! Our children can be poisoned and be left to suffer the rest of their life and the corporations behind these assaults can be free out of any prosecution or charges of negligence.

Children especially in countries like India, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are often on the frontline of these pesticide assaults. This is also the reason that PANAP partners in these countries are driving for the petition to gain traction to push state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.

Data show that pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application. An estimated number of 1.5 billion children in Asia live in rural areas. Pesticides severely impact their lives, health and intelligence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the child’s “inherent right to life” and that the survival and development of the child should be ensured to the “maximum extent possible”.

Through this petition, PANAP hopes to gather a critical mass that will pressure governments to ensure that children’s rights are upheld.


A chorus of support

Here are some of the thoughts on why this petition is important to people across the globe.

1. Davao, Philippines
“… because clean, safe air is a basic human right. Children should not be deprived of this right.” – Mary Ann Fuertes,

2. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Our children need a pollution free environment. Stop the greed that destroys our children’s lives.”- Amar-Singh HSS

3. Mandurah, Australia
“This should be banned full stop. Stop letting the greed of a few poison us and our planet” – Corinne Coombs

4. Mumbai, India
“Children are far more vulnerable to pesticide exposure compared to adults. And children spend a substantial amount of time of the day in school. So minimising / eliminating pesticide exposure to children in school needs to be an obvious first priority.” – Lakshmanan S

5. Chicago, IL, USA
“Children are our most important resource. They can’t protect themselves, so we have a responsibility to do so. They are our future.” – Theresa Kastner

6. Rome, Italy
“Am signing because I believe that children should be protected from harmful pesticides especially in vulnerable countries that have insufficient safeguards and hardly monitored by state governments.” – Teresa Dagdag, Maryknoll Sister


Activities held in conjunction with International Children’s Day

1. ‘Zee the Bee’ Storytelling Session (MALAYSIA)
Children listened to the story of ‘Zee the Bee’ narrated by one of PANAP’s staff during the storytelling session in conjunction with International Children’s Day at Straits Quay Marina Mall, Penang. The little ones were also accompanied by their parents who sat in to find out about the harms of toxic pesticides.

2. Petition Drive (MALAYSIA)
The PANAP team members engaged with parents and children to inform them about the importance of the petition to urge state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.

3. ‘Towards Pesticides-Free Environment’ Project (VIETNAM)
For the first time students were given opportunities from the get-go to organise a large-scale event. This event which took place in Dong Dat 1 Primary School saw an active participation of 300 pupils. The event also attracted high profile personnel from People’s Committee, Phu Luong Agriculture Extension Unit and local leaders. The local leaders agreed to send a letter on the impact of pesticides on children. This activity is organised by the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD), a leading Vietnamese NGO supporting rural communities to adapt to the changing environment and sustainably manage their own livelihoods.

4. School children against pesticides (CAMBODIA)
Children from Po Ampil, Takeo shared their thoughts on the harmful effects of pesticides with CEDAC, an NGO specializing in sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Please watch video here.


Please join us in stopping schools from becoming silent killing fields of children. Spare just two minutes of your time to sign the petition to create safer schools for children across the region.

SIGN HERE: Urge the state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools