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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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, deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

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 & 2,4-D – INFO

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.

PARAQUAT & 2,4-D – WOMEN & PESTICIDE EXPOSURE

“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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REFERENCE

  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.

PANAP calls for global governance of hazardous pesticides to protect children beyond 2020

Tomorrow is world cancer day, globally children are exposed to pesticides in their everyday lives. Pesticides have been linked to long-term health impacts including cancer, leukemia and learning disorders.

Now more than ever stricter global mechanisms are needed to regulate pesticides globally. PAN Asia Pacific calls upon SAICM in its intercessional process taking place on the 7th to 9th February, 2017 in Brazil to develop a mechanism for global governance of pesticides and phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides, with special attention to the rights and needs of children.

Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP’s Executive Director said that “Regulatory processes and policies fail to protect children from pesticides due to the lack of political will to question norms and apply the precautionary principle.”

PANAP’s submission to SAICM 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.

Children in Asia are particularly more vulnerable as their developing bodies are exposed to pesticides near schools, through their diet and their environments.  In many rural areas in Asia, poverty forces children work on farms and plantations. In some cases, children are exposed to pesticide spray drifts from farms and also sprayed on aerially e.g. Philippines.

“Children’s continuous exposure to pesticides is undeniable and unacceptable,” Rengam continues. She noted that numerous cases of child poisoning occur throughout the world but are particularly high in Asia.  She particularly mentioned the events in Cambodia where insecticide-tainted cucumbers caused the mass poisoning of villagers 440 of whom are children as recently as 2015, and at least 27 children in India aged 4 to 12 were fatally poisoned by monocrotophos in 2013.  Monocrotophos, a highly hazardous pesticide is still being sold in India despite WHO warnings to ban the pesticide.

Despite stricter regulations, pesticide residues have been found in food and water in food samples in Asia Pacific.  The insecticides cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos, and diazinon are among those detected in fruits and vegetables from Southeast Asia. These three belong to the list of Terrible Twenty pesticides highly hazardous to children as they cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurological disorders among others.

According to Dr Meriel Watts, author of Poisoning our future: Children and Pesticides, “There is still very little understanding of the extent of acute poisoning by pesticides and its chronic impacts on health and the environment.” She added that “The Bhopal, Kasargod and Kamukhaan tragedies have led to the suffering and death of countless men, women and children, and yet, we have not taken extreme measures to prevent its recurrence.” These tragedies are recounted in the PANAP submission.

PANAP brings to fore the existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed to developing countries. 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.

Deeppa Ravindran, Pesticide Programme Coordinator of PANAP calls on the SAICM participants to “uphold the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. We at 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.”

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Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, sarojeni.rengam@panap.net

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.

Rationale

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.

Bangladesh
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).

Cambodia
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.

China
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.

Dubai
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).

India
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.

Malaysia
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.

Pakistan
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, (deeppa.ravindran@panap.net), 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 http://pan-international.org/resources;

* 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
Technology for Development; the 2011 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council; FAO international and regional symposia on agroecology.

3 Watts MA and Williamson S. 2015. Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing our Highly Hazardous Pesticides with agroecology. Pesticide Action Network International, Penang. https://panap.net/2015/11/replacing-chemicals-biology-phasing-highly-hazardous-pesticides-agroecology/

 

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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

Five Facts About Pesticides & Cancer

Early December, PANAP and civil society organisations together with cancer survivors and patients among others, convened for a two-day roundtable discussion on Affordable Health Care to address the issue of rising costs due to a healthcare system which places a huge burden on patients and their families which was initiated by Klang MP Charles Santiago.

The treatment for breast cancer can cost up to a total RM395,000 for a single patient. Prof Dr Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy, a UM cancer epidemiologist has estimated on average the cost for breast cancer treatment can climb up to US$15,000 (approximately RM65,000) per year. This is a tough row to hoe for the patients who are already suffering.

PANAP's Chandrika Devi giving a presentation during the roundtable session shedding the light on how carcinogenic & tumor promoter pesticides impact livelihoods of people especially women & children. PANAP joined civil society organisations to discuss the plight of exorbitant cost of healthcare on vulnerable groups and how to address this issue.
PANAP’s Chandrika Devi giving a presentation during the roundtable session shedding the light on how carcinogenic & tumor promoter pesticides impact livelihoods of people especially women & children. PANAP joined civil society organisations to discuss the plight of exorbitant cost of healthcare on vulnerable groups and how to address this issue.

Little attention has been given on how carcinogenic pesticides have been wreaking havoc on people’s lives. Thus, the roundtable session further reaffirmed PANAP’s advocacy on adopting the precautionary principle in the fight against the unbearable increasing medical cost.

Precautionary principle grounds on the basis that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. Given that pesticides pose a wide array of health complications and certain implications of the use are still unknown, it is best to eliminate the use of highly hazardous pesticides(HHPs) in the best interest of all.

Here are 5 facts about pesticides that you might have not been aware of:

1. HHPs have been found in the surface water of rivers and tap water in Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia. The pesticides are residues of endosulfan, edrine ketone, aldrin and DDE — a derivative of the dangerous DDT. They have been finding their way to our food and drinking water. What is more appalling is that some of these pesticides have been prohibited from use both locally and internationally.

2. These pesticides are not only probable human carcinogens (agents directly involved in causing cancer) but could also cause a host of other often deadly health implications on a person. HHPs can be indicated by high acute toxicity, long term toxic effects, and as endocrine disruptors. Children and women are often on the frontline of the harmful effects of pesticides because of their physiology and sociopolitical status. In a 2015 study in Malaysia, children (aged 10 and 11 years) exposed to organophosphates (OP) and carbamates near rice paddy fields had poor neurodevelopment. Children also had lower cholinesterase levels, a clear indicator of OP poisoning.

3. The use of pesticides are inevitably pushing us into economic hardship as medical costs continue to skyrocket especially for cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, biopsy and biomarker testing. Lindane, permethrin, cypermethrin and captan are chemical pesticides that increase the risk of breast cancer.

Malaysian Klang MP Charles Santiago kick-started the roundtable session underscoring the need for a more affordable, accessible, sustainable and rights-focused health care for all.
Malaysian Klang MP Charles Santiago kick-started the roundtable session underscoring the need for a more affordable, accessible, sustainable and rights-focused health care for all.

4. Corporations are not being held accountable for the suffering they have created.Critics point the finger at the inequitable Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime which unfairly turns the table, giving leverage to big pharmaceutical corporations at the merciless expense of working and middle class patients and families. Some corporations selling HHPs are also involved in selling pharmaceutical drugs. For instance, Zeneca Chemicals (a subsidiary of ICI Chemicals) earn millions from the sales of carcinogenic pesticides (e.g acetochlor) on one hand, and as Astra Zeneca, from the breast cancer treatment drug tamoxifen on the other hand.

5. Lax regulations surrounding the use of HHPs by governments have been exploited or continue to be exploited with ongoing trade deals such as TPP (formerly) and RCEP. In the pursuit of trade liberalisation the human cost have been sidelined in favour of economic gains. IPR are further lobbied by agrochemical companies to enhance corporate monopoly on GMOs such as hybrid rice seeds. These seeds rely on the use of pesticides such as glyphosate (aka Roundup in trades) which are probable carcinogens to humans as classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Therefore, PANAP strongly calls governments and corporations to take concrete steps towards a phase-out and ban of HHPs, as they have been identified as probable carcinogens and significantly play a role in causing cancer and eventually pushing many to the brink of suffering. PANAP also advocates for agroecology as the appropriate approach to replace the use of HHPs on farms and agricultural sites.

REFERENCES
1. Meriel Watts,2013, Breast Cancer, Pesticides and You!
2. PAN International Consolidated List Of Banned Pesticides
3. Is Your Medical Insurance Plan Sufficient For The Big C?
4. Children & Pesticides: Protect Our Children From Toxic Pesticides
5. Hashim,Z. & Baguma,B.2015. Environmental Exposure of Organophosphate
Pesticides Mixtures and Neurodevelopment of Primary School Children in Tanjung
Karang, Malaysia. Asia Pacific Environmental and Occupational Health
Journal,1(1):44-53,2015

#NoLandNoLife | PANAP joins solidarity mission vs. land grabbing, repression of farmers in Philippine banana plantation

Press Statement

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) joined a solidarity and fact finding mission for farmers and farm workers engaged in a land dispute against Lapanday Foods Corp., one of the Philippines’ largest banana plantation operators in Madaum village, Tagum City in Mindanao on 15 December.

In the past week, 10 people have been reportedly wounded in three separate shooting incidents as Lapanday security personnel tried to take down the camp out of farmers and farm workers asserting their rightful claim to 145 hectares of land grabbed by the company.

“We are deeply alarmed that these cases of violence seem to be committed by the alleged security people of Lapanday boldy and without fear of being held liable. We went here to let the farmers know that many groups, including those outside Mindanao and the Philippines, are supporting them. We join in the call for justice and accountability. We join in the call that the rightful claim of the farmers to their land be respected,” said Deeppa Ravindran, a program coordinator for PANAP, during the solidarity mission in Madaum.

PANAP also found out that aside from bullets, Lapanday also allegedly used toxic agrochemicals to drive away the protesting farmers. On the morning of 12 December, a Lapanday plane sprayed pesticide twice in the direction of farmers and their children who were having breakfast then. The aerial spraying “hurt their eyes and nose”, said one farmer.

“Pesticides, of course, have other long-term health impacts, including cancer and learning disorder, with children the most vulnerable. This is outrageous and enraging. Is Lapanday also using poisonous pesticides against the farmers and their innocent children? Someone should be made accountable here and we call on the authorities for a prompt and impartial probe,” Ravindran emphasized.

According to PANAP partners Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) and the Union of Agricultural Workers (UMA), the plantation’s workers had been picketing in front of the Lapanday gate for the past seven months and decided to reclaim the 145-hectare land with support from other farmers’ groups last 9 December. The said land has already been awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to 159 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs).

Based on initial accounts, seven of those wounded were from the shooting incident on 14 December while three were hurt on a separate incident on 12 December. The first shooting incident happened on 9 December, the first day of the camp out, but no one was reported injured.

In a statement on International Human Rights Day (10 December), PANAP revealed that almost 16 farmers, indigenous people, and advocates of the people’s right to land were being killed every month this year – or three times the average in 2015 – in Asia Pacific and other regions. The data cover incidents that occurred in the Philippines. ###

Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, nolandnolife@panap.net

Averting Bhopal-like tragedies for the livelihoods children rightfully deserve

Every year on December 3, we are reminded of the horrors of the Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant in the city of Bhopal, India that exposed more than 500,000 lives to the deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas.

If anything at all, this tragedy should serve to remind us about the obligations we shoulder to protect and realize children’s right from exposure to toxic chemicals.

Children are on the frontline of these toxic assaults as industries inevitably contaminate most of the safe environments that children occupy. From the food they eat, water they drink, the air they inhale, to the grounds they fall and play, almost all in one way or another have been contaminated by persistent organic pollutants in the form of pesticides.

In September 2016, PAN in its submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has outlined recommendations for governments to address the problems of children’s exposure to highly hazardous pesticides.

Studies have revealed that innocuous exposures to low levels of pesticides, such as those that are commonly found as residues in food or drift on the wind, are posing threats to the health and wellbeing of children, and pushing them closer to a lifetime legacy of damage and failed potential.

In 2015, 11 children aged between two and six in Bangladesh became victims of pesticide poisoning. They suffered from fever and convulsions after eating fruits laced with pesticides before succumbing to their eventual death shortly after consuming what was supposed to be safe. These deaths are not isolated incidents. Children have been and continue to be harmed by the unforgiving effects of pesticides on them.

Children living in rural areas in particular are more exposed to pesticides. In a 2015 study in Malaysia, it was found that children aged between 10 and 11 exposed to organophosphate(OP) and carbamate type pesticides near the rice paddy fields had poor neurodevelopment. They had poor motor skills, poor hand/eye coordination, attention speed and perceptual motor speed compared to those who were not exposed. Children also had lower cholinesterase levels, a clear indicator of OP poisoning.

Horrendous tragedies such as Bhopal, Kasargod, Kamukhan and the death of Silvino Talavera, as well as the tragedies of everyday exposure that fly under the radar, will continue unless serious actions are taken to put an immediate halt to children’s exposure to highly hazardous pesticides.

The international chemicals conventions, national pesticide regulatory processes, and government policies which are primarily responsible to safeguard our children, are all, unfortunately, failing to do so.

PANAP’s recommendations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on child rights and the environment was to urge governments and relevant stakeholders to change agricultural policy and practices to remove the assumption that pesticides are necessary. In addition, farmers are encouraged to move to agroecology (a biodiversity-based ecological agriculture) or organic agriculture and ensure that pest, weeds and diseases are managed by the methods that cause the least harm to humans and the environment (Principle of Precautionary and Minimum Harm).

Also, as an initial measure, to institute buffer zones for plantations or farms that use pesticides, and to monitor them regularly to ward off the effects of pesticide drift especially on children.

At the same time, a report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes also reflected PAN’s call.

“When exposure does occur, children are too often left without access to an effective remedy or justice for harms related to toxics and pollution. The deadly, lifelong impacts of this assault on children’s bodies frequently remain invisible until later in their lives, making it difficult to prove how and when the damage was done, and enabling impunity for perpetrators.

“Solutions to the challenge of toxics and their impacts on children are available, but they must be rooted in human rights to be effective, including the obligation on States to prevent childhood exposure to toxic chemicals,” wrote the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Hazardous Substances and Wastes on his Duty to Prevent Childhood Exposure report.

The UN Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak has underscored the importance of both state obligation to prevent childhood exposure and business responsibility to prevent exposure by children to toxics.

States have obligations to protect children from toxic pesticide exposures. They are in the predominant position to safeguard a child’s right to a healthy and safe environment. States should adopt the precautionary and minimum harm principles to ensure the assaults are averted.

It has become clear that the problems we have today with children’s lives being continuously wrecked by pesticides are because of institutional failures to acknowledge that pesticides are not necessary.

Most governments and many scientists assume, often overlooking available evidence, that pesticides are necessary. Good science and a wealth of observational data have repeatedly shown that farmers can make more money and improve their food security and the health of their families and the environment by not using pesticides and practicing agroecology instead.

On the other hand, businesses or corporations too have a duty to prevent another pesticide tragedy that would threaten the already vulnerable population.

Agrichemical corporations can’t be kept on letting off the hook for the perpetuation of toxic pesticide assaults on children in the name of profit. Profit at the expense of innocent lives is deplorable and should not be condoned.

Although legislations have been in place for an environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, children continue to die from pesticide poisonings.

Baskut’s report read: “Children die with startling regularity from pesticide poisonings. A major contributor to this problem is that a large number of hazardous pesticides that present unmanageable risks are not banned or restricted at the global level. Another significant problem is the half a million tons of obsolete pesticides scattered across developing countries and seeping into soil and water.”

Bhopal-like tragedies would most certainly be well under their way due to the lax enforcements and an absence of greater political will to tackle this problem.

poc-petition-panap-panindiaBy ensuring governments take up the mandate to protect children from different childhood exposures and holding corrupt businesses publicly accountable would be paramount to provide the current generation and the many more to come the livelihoods they rightfully deserve — a livelihood free from toxic pesticide assaults.

PANAP and its partners are demanding state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones to protect children in the rural and agricultural area from the harmful effects of pesticide exposures.

Help to create awareness on pesticide-free buffer zones and realize that it can have the power to protect our future generations from the impacts of toxic pesticides.

Read more and sign the petition here.

 

In Solidarity Against DAPL To Protect Water & Children

The opposition to the construction of North Dakota Access Pipeline reflects the similar struggle in our region to protect our rivers and environment from pollutants.

State of rivers in particular has been a major concern given the fact that persistent organic pollutants in the form of pesticides were found in tap water and surface water of rivers in Malaysia.

A 2015 study by UKM on Organochlorine Pesticides Residue Level in Surface Water of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia revealed the staggering finding which was then disseminated in a seminar by PANAP.

These toxic pesticides found do not only contaminate the water sources but put humans in contact at severe health risks, particularly leaving deadly long-lasting impacts on vulnerable young children.

While, it is still not all doom and gloom when it comes to environmental advocacies, the struggle continues.

In Cameron Highlands, schools are also dangerously close to farms that have records of highly hazardous pesticide use. All the schools below are in Cameron highlands and are within 2km reach of farms.

SJK Ladang SG Palas is surrounded by farms
SJK Ladang SG Palas is surrounded by farms
SMK Ringlet is less than 2 km from farms
SMK Ringlet is less than 2 km from farms
SJK(C) Kea Farms is less than 2km from farms
SJK(C) Kea Farms is less than 2km from farms

There has been sufficient evidence that pinpoints how pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application.

Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Minister Malaysia earlier this year said, “Expanding the river reserves from the minimum 10m to 20m would shield rivers from pollution due to human activities. This would also serve as a filter for mud, soil and solids washed down from hills, development and construction sites and agricultural land.”

Hence, the call for the reserve or buffer zone expansion comes as a significant milestone for environmental activism as well as for rural and tribal communities on the front line of struggle for the preservation of water resources. It shouldn’t stop here.

Earlier, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh in the Malaysian Dewan Rakyat session argued that a research by experts from the year 2011 to 2013 “indicated that some of the pollutants found in the river were due to new usage”.Despite being banned some of the pesticides are still being widely used. The experts from the Center for Water Research & Analysis of UKM conducted another research to ascertain the level of pollutant concentration in the water supply, she added.

“A second project was initiated, which included a monitoring program beginning August 2014, samples were taken from 7 stations including one from a tap in Brinchang,” she said while reaffirming that the results also confirmed that pollutants were found in drinking tap water.

Hence, the buffer zones are required not only in the vicinity of rivers but their reach should be extended to other areas occupied by people as well. Homes, public spaces and schools especially with young children should have buffer zones too.

For an issue of such pressing nature, the responses from the other party lacked urgency. That in a way shed the light on how much of political will there is for a safer environment.

While the government is taking efforts to promote non-chemical alternatives such as the Malaysian Organic Certification Scheme or myOrganic, more support is needed. Support from both the public and other government agencies would further promote efforts to preserve water and provide safer zones for our children who are most prone to the toxic pesticide implications.

We stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in protecting the sanctity of our water which is important not only as our fundamental human need but to ensure our very existence, for future generations could be spared from jeopardy.

PANAP and its partners are also demanding state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones to protect children in the rural and agricultural area from the harmful effects of pesticide exposures.

Help to create awareness on pesticide-free buffer zones and realize that it can have the power to protect our future generations from the impacts of toxic pesticides.

Read more and sign the petition here.

Group calls for pesticide-free buffer zones around schools

PENANG, Malaysia – As children are globally celebrated today, the regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) along with partners have called for pesticide-free buffer zones to put our children out of pesticides harm’s way.

As the world observes the UN’s Universal Children’s Day today, regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and its partners called on governments to implement pesticide-free buffer zones around schools to help protect children from pesticides’ harmful effects.

Children’s Day marks the adoption by the UN of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989. For PANAP, however, the rights of children to health and development as articulated in the said conventions are being violated by the continued use of toxic agrochemicals.

“It is distressing to find out that many children are exposed to pesticides including in schools that are close to farms and other agricultural sites that spray these poisonous chemicals. This is a serious matter that should be urgently addressed by policy makers,” said PANAP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam.

Rengam argued that so-called ‘pesticides drift’ – the airborne movement of pesticides away from the intended target – poses great risk to rural communities, especially children. Pesticides and other toxic chemicals have detrimental impact on a child’s neurodevelopment and intelligence leading to learning disorders, among other effects.

PANAP noted that pesticides drift was behind the recent poisoning of 30 school children in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia. Similar incidents have also occurred in the US (Mendocino and Ventura Counties, California), the Philippines (Davao del Norte), and Sri Lanka (Nuwara Eliya District).

For her part, Deeppa Ravindran, Coordinator of PANAP’s Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides campaign, added “Schools are supposed to be safe places for children to learn and grow. That they are constantly exposed to pesticides even in such places is just unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, the UN is also beginning to pay attention on the issue. Last September 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics Baskut Tuncak said that “States have a duty and businesses a corresponding responsibility, to prevent childhood exposure (from toxic chemicals)”. But Tuncak observed that the laws, policies and practices of States and businesses are inconsistent with such obligation.

PANAP emphasized that implementing pesticide-free buffer zones is one of the immediate measures that governments can do to protect and uphold the rights of children.

Reference: Deeppa Ravindran, PAN Asia Pacific, Pesticides Programme Coordinator, deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

Taking a stand to protect our children on the occasion of the International Children’s Day would be a meaningful gift to humanity. Kindly sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/urge-the-state-governments-to-institute-pesticide-free-buffer-zones-around-schools.