“Don’t poison our future!”

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Sunday, June 8, 2014


WITH the world using about 50 times more pesticides today than six decades ago, their harmful impact on the environment and human health has increased alarmingly – and evidence is growing that children are especially vulnerable.

Aside from those used in agriculture and food production, toxic chemicals used in homes, schools, gardens and public places expose children to debilitating and life-long health problems including cancers, autism, birth defects, asthma and other childhood diseases and disorders.

As countries marked World Environment Day, Penang-based advocacy group Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) launches the Children and Pesticides Campaign – an initiative to protect children from pesticide exposure and to promote healthier and safer childhood environments. PAN AP’s counterpart in North America, Pesticides Action Network North America (PANNA), will hold a simultaneous launch in the US.

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The Children and Pesticides Campaign is an extension of PAN’s ongoing work on phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides globally. June 5 also marked the anniversary of its landmark 1985 Dirty Dozen Campaign which targeted 12 extremely hazardous pesticides for bans or strict controls on production and use worldwide, and for their replacement with safe and sustainable pest control methods. (See http://www.panna.org/our-community/pan-international)

Impact on children

“Infants are infinitely more sensitive to pesticides than adults. At the early stage of their lives their immune systems, their endocrine systems and their neurological systems are all still developing, their brains are developing and they're very sensitive to the effects of even very small doses of pesticides,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, senior scientific advisor to PAN AP and a New Zealand-based specialist on pesticides.

Another expert on the health impact of pesticides, Manila-based toxicologist Dr. Romeo Quijano added: “Pesticides and other toxic contaminants in air, water, and food have emerged as important causal factors for various developmental abnormalities, cancers and other diseases suffered by children. Hardly any person or any place on earth is left uncontaminated and not poisoned to some degree by these toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Quijano, who is a member of PAN AP’s Steering Council and president of PAN Philippines.

Dr. Quijano added that he has studied and observed the harmful effects of pesticides in his work in academia and in various countries as a medical professional. “In banana plantation communities in the Philippines, in palm oil plantations in Malaysia, in a cashew plantation in India, in garbage dump communities in the cities, and in many other areas, I have examined children harmed by pesticides and other toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Quijano.

Meanwhile, Dr. Watts, who authored the book Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides published last year by PAN AP, also pointed out that children in the rural areas are highly at risk – whether as children of farm workers or as farm workers themselves.

“Pesticide residues in the fields where children play and those carried home by parents on their bodies and clothes, or pesticides stored at home are sources of exposure – aside from the fact that children themselves are engaged in farm work and directly handle or exposed to pesticides,” Dr. Watts emphasized, noting that there are about 150 million child laborers in agriculture.

Strong campaign

Given the continued promotion of pesticides by profit-seeking big agrochemical firms, Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP, said that the Children and Pesticides Campaign is an urgent initiative to protect the world’s children from the poisons brought by pesticides. The PAN AP leader noted that global pesticide use is now pegged at 2.3 million tons, or 50 times more than in 1950.

“Through lobby and advocacy work with national governments as well as engagement with civil society, people’s movements, parents, schools and other institutions, we hope that the campaign will snowball and generate vigorous public support that will compel policy makers to take action. We need to deliver a strong message that agrochemical firms should stop poisoning our children and our future,” said Ms. Rengam.

PAN AP is encouraging its partners in the region to join the campaign through participation in sign on petitions; writing letters to government officials; sharing photo or video messages as well as stories on the harmful impact of pesticides on children in their communities; and initiating public discussions. (See PAN AP’s website about the campaign here - http://www.panap.net/campaigns/hhps/children-and-pesticides)

“Children are being born already contaminated with pesticides that will undermine their intellectual ability and their health for the rest of their lives, is a tragedy beyond measure. This must stop. It is up to every government to make sure that children are protected from these damaging chemicals by banning them and making sure they are never again used in our countries,” Dr. Watts said.

By highlighting their impact on children, the PAN AP campaign intends to ban 20 pesticides that have proven to be hazardous, namely: Chlorpyrifos, Monocrotophos, Malathion, Methamidophos, DDT, Permethrin, Diazinon, Paraquat, Propoxur, Atrazine, Dichlorvos, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, Mancozeb, Methyl parathion, Carbaryl, Chlorothalonil, Parathion, Lambda-cyhalothrin, and Maneb.

“The launch marked the beginning of continued action against pesticides that are harmful to children’s health. Regular activities at the national and local levels will sustain the campaign throughout the year and beyond,” Ms. Rengam said. (PR)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 08, 2014.

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