Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
December 18, 1998
This year, on December 3, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) launched "No Pesticides Day" in commemoration of the hundreds who died and the thousands who suffered due to the disaster in Bhopal in 1984. No Pesticides Day has also been established to draw attention to the life threatening impacts of chemical pesticides on people and the environment.
On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide's pesticide-manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India leaked 42 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate into a sleeping, impoverished community -- killing more than 2,500 people in the first night of the disaster and injuring up to 200,000 others.
According to some estimates, more than 16,000 people have died since that time as a result of medical problems related to their exposures; 50,000 people are still suffering significant long term health impacts and over 500,000 people have filed injury claims with the Bhopal Compensation Courts.
There have been no criminal verdicts issued in the Bhopal case, however, Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for US$470 million in 1989. To date, Bhopal survivors or their families have received US$3,300 for loss of life and US$800 for permanent disability.
Union Carbide has since abandoned its Bhopal plant which originally produced pesticides for use in cotton production and has refused to clean up the extensive pollution of water and soil it left behind.
"We can never forget Bhopal" stated Sarojeni V. Rengam of PAN Asia and the Pacific at the launch of this campaign. "Bhopal is a tragedy that need not have happened. PAN International is launching "No Pesticides Day" in memory of those who suffered at Bhopal," she continued.
As the years pass, the harms attributable to the Bhopal disaster grow worse as new health problems are discovered. In 1995 a neighborhood clinic -- the Bhopal People's Health and Documentation Centre, Sambhavna -- was set up to help people still suffering the effects of the disaster. "The clinic was started using voluntary contributions from thousands of people around the world who are standing up against unacceptable business practices and corporate irresponsibility which caused such devastation," explained Barbara Dinham of The Pesticides Trust, UK.
Bhopal, however, is only one example of the dangers of toxic pesticides. The manufacture, distribution, and use of chemical pesticides have for years had devastating impacts on people and the environment. Every year approximately three million people are poisoned around the world and 200,000 die from pesticide use. Beyond these reported acute cases of pesticide poisoning, even more worrying are the chronic long term effects such as cancer and reproductive disorders.
While most pesticide-related deaths occur in the South, pesticides also pose serious problems in industrialized countries. In both rich and poor countries, the effects of pesticide poisoning are suffered disproportionately by poor and disadvantaged people.
Around the world, toxic pesticides can be found in even the most remote village. In the South, availability of highly toxic pesticides, lack of information and knowledge of their hazards, aggressive marketing by industry as well as poverty, illiteracy, and lack of health facilities in rural areas ensure that pesticides are a major cause of poisoning in farming communities.
"This is why we need to take the 'No Pesticides Day' message to the grassroots, to every village... every person needs to understand the dangers that pesticides pose to human health and the environment" stressed Luis Gomero of PAN Latin America. Commenting on the goals of the campaign, Sarojeni V. Rengam added, "The Campaign will not only show the human and environmental hazards of chemical pesticides but also stress that pesticide use is unnecessary in food and fiber production".
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global coalition of citizen's groups and individuals who oppose the misuse and overuse of pesticides, and support the reliance on safe and sustainable alternatives. PAN links over 300 groups in 50 countries and operates through 5 regional centers.
For more information contact the regional center nearest you.
PAN Centre Regional Pour L'Afrique, B.P. 15938, Dakar-Fann, Dakar, Senegal; phone/fax (221) 254 914; email email@example.com
Asia and the Pacific
PAN Asia/Pacific, P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia; phone (604) 657 0271/656 0381; fax (604) 675 7445; email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pesticides Trust, Eurolink Business Centre, 49 Effra Road, London SW2 1BZ, UK; phone (44-171) 274 8895; fax (44-171) 274 9084; email email@example.com
Red de Accion en Alternativas al Uso de Agroquimicos (RAAA), Mariscal Miller No. 2622, Lince, Lima, Peru; phone (51-1) 421 0826; fax (51-1) 440 4359; email firstname.lastname@example.org
PAN North America (PANNA) San Francisco, U.S.A; phone (1-415) 981 1771; fax (1-415) 981 1991; email email@example.com.