A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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November 16, 2006
WHO official calls for ban on organophosphate pesticides to prevent suicides: The World Health Organization coordinator of mental and brain disorders, Jose Bertolote, presented studies that implicate pesticides, especially organophosphates—a class of highly acutely toxic chemicals, as a leading cause of preventable suicides. "We have very good studies interviewing people between the act of ingesting pesticides and their deaths. More than 95% are desperate when they learn they are going to die," according to Bertolote. People who attempt suicide with pesticides “tend to be rural folk who would have died by the time their families get them to hospital,” reported Reuters. "If in despair you drink pesticide(s), you die in three hours and … the vast majority of these people did not have the intention to die and they did not know it would be so lethal ... all they wanted was some attention," said Bertolote. China has the highest number of suicides in the world, with 250,000 cases a year, while Sri Lanka has the highest rate at 36.2 suicides per every 100,000 people. In both countries more than 60% of suicides are committed using pesticides. Bertolote called on governments to ratify treaties eliminating organophosphate pesticides.
India’s cotton economy threatened; pesticide-related suicides increase: With an expensive and chemically intensive industrial agricultural system thrust upon small farmers in India, many are so overwhelmed with debt that they find their only way out by committing suicide; drinking the very pesticide they purchased as part of the process that ruined them financially. The Hindustan Times tells the story of Vasant Pimpre, a cotton farmer in his thirties who recently took his own life while in despair from the debt he carried. Globalization and a failing cotton industry is wreaking havoc on 1.7 million farmers there. Despite a jump in cotton exports from India, the Times reports that the cotton economy is on the verge of collapse.
New York bans pesticide mister: State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer banned a mosquito misting system that dispensed pyrethrin pesticides in consumers’ backyards. “Pesticides are toxic chemicals that should not be blindly released into the air by automatic misting systems. We need to work to reduce the public's exposure to pesticides, and this agreement will help accomplish that important goal,'' Spitzer told the Albany Times. About a dozen “Buzz-Off” mister systems were sold, with prices ranging from $2,000 - $20,000. Now they can no longer be sold in New York. The company has to pay a $25,000 fine and offer full refunds to customers. Spitzer becomes Governor of New York in January.
Controversy over pesticide neighbor notification law: Residents of Ulster County, New York, argued over an impending vote on a law that would require pesticide applicators to notify residents when using pesticide chemicals within 48 hours prior to spraying near the area being sprayed. At a hearing last week, citizen’s groups debated the Ulster County Neighbor Notification Law with professional pesticide applicators. The MidHudson News reports on the debate. The county legislature vote will likely occur in December.
Farmworkers harmed by pesticides in Chile win key legal ruling: In 2004, 19 women working on El Descanso farm in Pelarco were hospitalized with burns on their skin and other health effects including dizziness and nausea. The court ruled that the employer was negligent and allowed unsafe working conditions for the day laborers. The legal battle took two years, with the Supreme Court upholding the Health Department’s original finding. The Santiago Times reports that there have been over 700 cases of pesticide poisonings documented with agricultural workers in the region during the last several years.November 18th is Buy Local Day: Many experts agree that the best way to buy healthy food is to buy locally and to know the farmers in your region who grow the healthy food you like to eat. Large chain stores based out of your region take their profits out of your community. Join others across the nation on November 18th to focus on supporting local farmers and local businesses with your dollars. Find out more.