Wednesday March 20, 2019

When pest control kills people

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source: wisegeek.com

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)

Next Story

Coca Pesticide A Direct Threat To Bolivian Bees

On the lush steep slopes around Coroico, beekeeper Villca has no doubt about the immediate threat to his bees.

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bolivian bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

High up in the Bolivian cloud forest, a woman tends to her bees, smoker in hand, working from hive to hive under a canopy of leaves to delicately gather panels of honeycomb. It’s a bucolic scene that experts say won’t last, for the bees are dying.

The culprit — as in so many other cases across the world — is pesticide. The difference in Bolivia is that pesticide use, along with the coca plantations it is being used to protect, is on the rise.

Environmentalists and beekeepers like Rene Villca say the bee population is being decimated by massive and intensive use of chemical pesticides to protect the region’s biggest cash crop.

Here in the idyllic Nor Yungas region north of the cloud-high capital La Paz, the pesticides are taking a toll on Villca’s hives.

“Of the 20 hives I have, 10 are producing normally and 10 are not.”

Bolivian Bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

On another part of the mountain where Nancy Carlo Estrada tends to her bees, a canopy of protective netting around her head, Exalto Mamami wades through a waist-high coca plantation, pumping out liquid pesticide from a canister on his back, face covered with a long cloth against harmful blowback from the spray.

He is all too aware of the pesticide’s toxicity, but has other priorities.

“We use pesticides because the pests eat through the coca leaves and this affects our income. The plants can dry out and that way we as coca farmers lose out economically,” said Mamani.

The sale of coca leaves — the base component of cocaine — is legal in this part of Bolivia. They are sold openly for traditional use in the local towns. It is chewed, used for making teas, and in religious and cultural ceremonies.

According to the latest survey by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Bolivia has 24,500 hectares under coca cultivation, an increase of 7.0 percent in a year. The government is collaborating with the UNODC in alternate development programs but despite this, between 35 and 48 percent is destined for cocaine production.

Bolivian Bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

Coca cultivation expanding

On the steep slopes of the region’s valleys, the lush forest is pockmarked with small plots of coca arranged in terraces.

“The area of coca cultivation has expanded and the native forest has been reduced to alarming levels,” said Miguel Limachi, an entomologist at La Paz’s San Andres University.

Limachi says the expansion of coca cultivation has helped to destroy other plants that provide a natural defense against the coca-leaf pests, particularly the Tussock Moth.

In other parts of the Andes, the pale moth has been used as a biological weapon against coca cultivation.

“A monoculture is more at risk from pests or fungi because there is no longer native vegetation — there are no natural controllers,” Limachi explained. “And then more pesticides are used in higher concentrations.”

Bolivian Bees
It’s a bucolic scene that experts say won’t last, for the bees are dying.

Harmful organophosphates in the pesticides mean the bees — “a social insect and extremely organized,” according to Limachi — become disorganized, and less able to feed and care for larvae.

In recent years across the globe, bees have been mysteriously dying off from “colony collapse disorder” blamed party on pesticides, but also on mites, viruses and fungi.

The danger of increased pesticide use in the Bolivian highlands is that they “remain in the soil, on the surface of the plants and obviously contaminate all the organisms present — both the growers themselves, their children and their families, and the wildlife,” Limachi told AFP.

Pesticides are also used to protect other crops in the country such as coffee plantations and some tropical fruits.

‘Growers have no choice’

For Exalto Mamani, there is no other option but to use pesticides.

“Many of the coca growers are aware that we are affecting the environment with these chemicals, but we have no other alternative because the coca supports us and gives us the economy to support our family,” he said.

He says climate change has meant coca leaf pests are on the increase.

Limachi agrees that climate change has played a role in reducing bee populations.

“Very dry years and other years that have too much rain change the availability of flowers from which the bees use to feed the hives,” he said.

Other human factors also play a role, he said.

Also Read: Rescue Efforts For Wild Puerto Rican Parrot In Motion

“Electromagnetic pollution, the emission of cellular waves, microwaves, radios, television…all that can affect their communication and the operation of the hive because they interrupt processes such as food collection, care of the larvae or cleanliness of the colony,” said Limachi.

On the lush steep slopes around Coroico, beekeeper Villca has no doubt about the immediate threat to his bees.

“We hope that the coca producers realize the value of this golden insect,” he said. (VOA)