The suffering caused by years of endosulfan use on cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district is well known: birth defects, high rates of mental retardation, and delayed puberty, in addition to the hundreds of deaths directly attributed to the antiquated insecticide. Now, the Indian press is reporting another cluster of endosulfan-induced disease a couple hundred miles away in Muthalamada district, also part of the state of Kerala.
So far 46 "suspected endosulfan victims" have been officially identified, but NGOs working in the area say there are hundreds more. The situation is eerily similar to that in Kasaragod, with large numbers of hydrocephalic children. According to one article:
Researchers found members of 174 families had serious health problems. Many children were found suffering from birth deformities, cancer, cerebral palsy, mental disorders, skin diseases, vision loss; many women were found infertile. The recent government survey also mentions the same disorders, but admits lower incidence.
In Muthalamada the insecticide is used on Mango trees and is sprayed by hand rather than by helicopter, as was the case in Kasaragod. Despite a statewide ban on endosulfan, its use continues since authorities have been unable to curtail smuggling from neighboring states.
But this may soon change. Pressure continues to mount within India for national ban, and in April the 173 countries that are parties to the Stockholm Convention will meet to decide on whether to impose a global ban. Hopefully the suffering in Kasaragod and Muthalamada will catalyze the action that is so desperately needed on endosulfan.