Wednesday November 21, 2018

When pest control kills people

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source: wisegeek.com
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When Dhawal Lahagania and Mandira Chaudhary, both in their early twenties, checked into an empty flat in Nigdi, Pune on October 31, they didn’t suspect anything was wrong. But soon after, they started to experience suffocation and breathing problems. Dhawal called a friend, who got them admitted to a hospital. The couple succumbed to their afflictions within a day.

What Dhawal and Mandira weren’t aware of was that a pest control company had fumigated the apartment under instructions from Dhawal’s parents, who had left the flat to stay away for the mandatory 12 hours.

In July 2013, 22 school children died in Bihar, and dozen others needed treatment after eating the midday-meal which was contaminated with insecticide.

It was in 1968, that an Insecticide Act was passed to regulate import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides. In 1970, the power to enforce the act shifted form the Health Ministry to the Agriculture ministry.

A Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee was set up, and states were advised to appoint functionaries to implement the Act. To undertake pest control operations, a licence is required, which must be renewed every five years. The job to license and monitor this was given to a district-level agriculture officer.

Pest control operations mostly remain by unregulated. Following the Nigdi incident, an inquiry showed there are only 450 licensed pest control operators in Pune district.

According to officials, the pest control operator in the Nigdi case was not licensed, and the agriculture officer overseeing the proceedings has every right to file a complaint against the agency. However, deaths resulting from pesticides and insecticides poisoning has failed to stir the government. Pest control operators usually only meet when a mishap has occurred. Training aspects are stressed on in these meetings but soon after they lose any semblance of importance.

870 insecticides were listed under the Faridabad-based Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee until November 2014.

Common pesticides include pyrethrin, deltamethrin, diazonin and fenitrothion, which are used against cockroaches, mosquitoes, houseflies, bedbugs and rats. They are classified by toxicity, and colour-coded for users to dilute appropriately. These chemicals are dangerous and inhalation, ingestion, or prolonged exposure to them, can be life-threatening.

Headaches, dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea are some of the symptoms of internal exposure, while chronic exposure may result in loss of appetite, weakness and weight loss. Severe damage can be caused to the liver, kidneys and the nervous system if rodenticides are ingested.

A 2005 study by the US National Institutes of Health also found a statistically significant increase in cancer mortality among municipal pest control workers who were exposed to a wide variety of chemicals.

Organic pest control methods, such as tulsi-based mosquito repellants, are difficult to prepare and there is not much awareness about them as well. As such, even though the natural alternatives cause no harm to the environment and the body, chemical based pesticides are the ones preferred by the market and people.

The pest control business needs a more serious approach. Proper precautions must be made mandatory both with regard to the person on the job and the common people in the vicinity. The pest controller must be licensed and the worker must wear protective clothing and treat different pests with the particular insecticide meant for them. Food must be covered and doors and windows kept shut. If the chemicals are too strong, one must make sure not to remain in the vicinity to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

(Inputs from Indian Express)

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Here’s Why Man-made Pesticides Affect Marine Animals More

The study calls for monitoring our waterways to learn more about the impact of pesticides and agricultural run-off on marine mammals.

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Marine animals are more vulnerable to man-made pesticides. Flickr

Marine mammals such as dolphins, manatees, seals and whales, which evolved to make water their primary habitat, lost the ability to make a gene that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide, a new study has revealed.

The researchers found that the marine mammals lost the gene Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) that effectively defends humans and other terrestrial mammals from organophosphates — a group of man-made insecticides.

PON1 potentially reduces cellular damage caused by unstable oxygen atoms and also protects us from organophosphates that kills by disrupting neurological systems.

Whales and dolphins lost the gene PON1 soon after they split from their common ancestor with hippopotamuses 53 million years ago; manatees lost it after their split from their common ancestor with elephants 64 million years ago.

Marine life
Whales and dolphins lost the gene PON1. VOA

But some seals likely lost PON1 function more recently, at most 21 million years ago and possibly in very recent times.

“The big question is, why did they lose function at PON1 in the first place? It’s hard to tell whether it was no longer necessary or whether it was preventing them from adapting to a marine environment,” said lead author Wynn K. Meyer, postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

“We know that ancient marine environments didn’t have organophosphate pesticides, so we think the loss might instead be related to PON1’s role in responding to the extreme oxidative stress generated by long periods of diving and rapid resurfacing,” Meyer added.

For the study, appearing in the journal Science, the team analysed DNA sequences from five species of marine mammals and 53 species of terrestrial mammals and reacted their blood samples with an organophosphate by-product.

 Marine Mammals lost the ability that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide.
Marine Animals lost the ability that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide.

The blood did not break down the organophosphate by-product the way it did in land mammals, indicating that unless a different biological mechanism is protecting the marine mammals, they would be susceptible to organophosphate poisoning — a form of poisoning that results from the build-up of chemical signals in the body, especially the brain.

Also Read: European Countries Bans Bee-Killing Pesticides

The study calls for monitoring our waterways to learn more about the impact of pesticides and agricultural run-off on marine mammals.(IANS)