Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Since the 1970s until the ban last year, the Plantation Corporation of Kerala aerially sprayed endosulfan on its cashew plantations. Houses and schools were covered with pesticide spray as it drifted from the fields.
For over 20 years, people in many districts in Kerala have been suffering from cerebral palsy and other disorders of the central nervous system, congenital neurological disorders, deformations, cancer (including many cases in young adults), reproductive disorders and miscarriages. The rates of these disorders are unusually high in villages near the cashew plantations. Cattle have also been born with deformed limbs.
In January 2001, the Indian organization Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) collected 25 samples of blood, fat, milk , vegetables, cashews, leaves, soil and water from Padre village in the highly affected Kasargod district of Kerala. The CSE report stated that all of the samples contained "alarmingly" high levels of endosulfan -- the first evidence that endosulfan was in the environment and in human beings.
An international team of experts recently visited affected villages in Kasargod district. After reviewing reports, conducting interviews and examining victims, the team concludedthat the health problems experienced by villagers in the district are caused by endosulfan. The experts considered other possible variables such as other pollutants, hereditary and nutritional factors but found that they had little influence.
"Many of the affected are young people and children and there is very clear evidence that mothers were exposed to endosulfan during pregnancy," commented Professor Romeo Quijano, Co-Chair of the International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network, Director of PAN Philippines and leader of the expert team. He added that in his medical opinion, "no other reasonable cause can explain the illnesses experienced by the people except endosulfan."
In addition to the many harmful effects that endosulfan has had on humans, local researchers in Kerala say that the pesticide also destroys many natural predators of tea mosquitoes normally found on cashew trees, such as Gurugunji tree ants and spiders. This disrupts the natural cycle of tea mosquito control in cashew production.
Endosulfan is chemically very close to other pesticides that have already been banned in India and are slated to be phased out globally under the Stockholm Convention signed last year. Classified as an organochlorine (the same family of pesticides as DDT and dieldrin), endosulfan and its breakdown products are persistent in the environment, with an estimated half-life of nine months to six years. It is known to bioaccumulate in humans and other animals, collecting particularly in the liver, kidneys and fatty tissue. There is strong evidence that endosulfan is an endocrine disrupting chemical.
Endosulfan is banned in 10 countries worldwide including Colombia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. Its use is severely restricted in another 22 countries.
ACTION: Write a letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala as soon as possible congratulating him on banning endosulfan and urging him to uphold the ban due to the overwhelming evidence that endosulfan seriously harms humans and animals, and is a major cause of health problems in several areas of Kerala.
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Sources: Endosulfan Spray Protest Action Committee White Paper, September 2001; Down to Earth October 15, 2001 (see article at http://www.downtoearth.org.in/default.asp?foldername=20011015); PANUPs November 8, 2001; The Hindu July 22, 2001; Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network "Preliminary findings of the survey on the impact of Aerial spraying on the People and the Ecosystem," October 2001.
Contact: Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network (TCAIN), L-14, Jawahar Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, 695 003; phone/fax 91-471-311-896; email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.