Children exposed to toxic pesticides

by kim willsher

http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Environment/2014/05/05/Children-exposed-to-toxic-pesticides/

Kids being poisoned: Pesticides sprayed in French farms and vineyards are being absorbed by children living nearby, claims the group Generations Futures. -AFP

Kids being poisoned: Pesticides sprayed in French farms and vineyards are being absorbed by children living nearby, claims the group Generations Futures. -AFP

A study shows that several children from agricultural areas in France have been exposed to harmful chemicals.

French children in agricultural areas are being exposed to a dangerous cocktail of pesticides, some of them banned, a French health and environment group has claimed.

Generations Futures carried out independent analysis of the hair of young people living or studying near farms or vineyards after parents expressed concern about their children being exposed to poisons that could disrupt their endocrine system. The group, a non-profit organisation specialising in the use and effects of pesticides on humans and the environment, says its findings confirmed their fears.

Researchers took hair samples from a selected group of children aged between three and 10 living or attending schools between 50m and 200m from different agricultural zones. It sent the samples to an independent laboratory in Luxembourg that used methods similar to those employed by detectives investigating poisoning cases.

A total of 624 pesticide traces were found in the 29 samples tested – one sample was deemed of insufficient quantity – suggesting that 80% of the children had been exposed to agricultural pesticides in the previous three months. In total, the laboratory found traces of 53 pesticides believed to affect the hormone system of mammals, leading to cancerous tumours, birth defects, developmental disorders and learning disabilities in humans.

An average of 21.52 different pesticides were found for each child, 35 so-called “endocrine disruptor” pesticides were found at least once, while 13 were discovered in every hair sample. Just under three-quarters of the children ate organic produce regularly, suggesting the contamination came from an outside source and not their food.

“The presence of more than 21 pesticides, on average, that are endocrine disruptors in the hair that was analysed shows that our children are exposed to a significant cocktail of these substances,” said Francois Veillerette, a spokesperson for Generations Futures. “Now the European Commission must finally make public a clear and protective definition of the endocrine disruptors that have to be banned.”

The group’s report urges urgent action. “Our demand is simple and based on an ambitious goal: no organism should contain endocrine disruptors, in order to protect the health of unborn children.”

The group says the French government’s own national strategy to deal with endocrine disruptors has reached a dead end. The plan was originally to be published in 2013, but has been repeatedly postponed until the end of this month.

“Because children are part of the population especially vulnerable to the dangers of endocrine disruptors, they should not be exposed to them,” it said.

The research showed that several children had been exposed to harmful chemicals banned in agricultural use but still used in parasite treatments for pet animals.

Jean-Charles Bocquet, director of the European Association of Plant Protection Product Manufacturers, dismissed the research. “The presence of pesticide traces is not necessarily indicative of a health danger, especially in infinitely small doses. I’m sure you’d find traces of diesel in our hair if you looked for it,” he said.

Veillerette disagreed. “It’s not the dose that’s the problem, but the accumulation of pesticides causing a cocktail effect,” he said. Generations Futures says it has sent its findings to a specialised university research team for further analysis. – Guardian News & Media

Pesticides affect unborn babies’ brain

Pesticides are not only responsible for a decline in bee populations but they can also affect human health and harm the brain development of unborn babies, according to European safetyexperts.

Researchers at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that pesticide imidacloprid was associated with brain shrinkage, and reduced activity in nerve signals in newborn rats, while the other, acetamiprid led to reduced weight and reaction times, the Independent reported.

According to an EFSA statement, the chemicals may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health/Pesticides-affect-unborn-babies-brain/articleshow/27596595.cms?intenttarget=no

download the study http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3471.htm

Women Living Near Pesticide-Treated Fields Have Smaller Babies

Women in northern California farm towns gave birth to smaller babies if they lived within three miles of strawberry fields and other crops treated with the pesticide methyl bromide, according to researchers

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=women-living-near-pesticide-treated-fields-have-smaller-babies

By Lindsey Konkel and Environmental Health News

 

HAZARDOUS FARMING: A soil fumigant, methyl bromide is deemed critical to the practice of strawberry farming despite its harmful effects on Earth’s protective ozone layer. Now it is believed to be behind reported smaller birth weights of women in northern California farm towns.

Women in Northern California farm towns gave birth to smaller babies if they lived within three miles of strawberry fields and other crops treated with the pesticide methyl bromide, according to researchers.

“There’s been very little research on residential exposure to methyl bromide. Our study is the first to look at methyl bromide and birth outcomes,” said Kim Harley, study author and associate director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

The soil fumigant, which is injected into the soil before planting, can volatize into the air, exposing nearby neighborhoods.

Use of methyl bromide has been declining over the past decade under an international treaty that phases out chemicals that deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Strawberries and a few other crops are exempt under the ban because they are deemed “critical uses.”

The researchers studied babies born to 442 pregnant women, mostly Latinas from Mexico, living in the Salinas Valley in 1999 and 2000, when methyl bromide was widely used. Its use near each woman’s home was based on data from the state’s Pesticide Use Reporting system.

Use of the pesticide within three miles of the home during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with an average birth weight about 4 ounces less than babies from areas with no methyl bromide use.

That 4-ounce difference is about half the birth weight decrease linked to smokingduring pregnancy, the researchers said.

The significance of the slightly smaller babies when it comes to their health is unknown because they are within normal ranges. Only 4 percent of the babies were born at what is considered a low birth weight, less than 5.5 pounds. Low birth weight babies may be at risk for developmental delays and learning problems.

“This data would be more meaningful if it demonstrated that exposure led to abnormality,” wrote Giffe Johnson, a toxicologist at the University of Southern Florida who studies pesticide levels in agricultural workers.

Harley said that while the clinical significance of the findings remains unclear, “for a baby on the low end of normal birth weight, 4 ounces could make a big difference.”

Harley also noted that while this group of agricultural workers, and Mexican immigrants in general, tend to have healthy birth weight babies, “across the board, we saw a shift toward slightly lighter babies.”

One major limitation is that no one knows how much methyl bromide the women were actually exposed to. Their exposures were estimated based on their addresses, with no actual measurements.

“A woman could work 12-hour shifts 40 miles from home or spend little time outdoors near her own home. It’s impossible to say whether these estimates represent an accurate picture of exposure,” said Myles Cockburn, an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California who studies pesticides.

About 41 percent of the women did some field work while pregnant, although few worked in fields that had been treated with methyl bromide.

The link to birth weight was reported only for exposures in the second trimester, not for the first or third trimesters. “The second and third trimesters are major periods for fetal growth. The second trimester may be a critical period for exposure to the pesticide,” Harley said.

Previously, animal studies have suggested that methyl bromide may harm fetal development.

While strawberry growers have been trying to replace methyl bromide for several years, no suitable alternatives have been found to work on a large scale.

Methyl bromide use has been cut nearly in half in California since 2002, but growers there still used almost 4 million pounds in 2011, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Despite the decline in usage, “the findings remain very relevant for the farm worker population, especially those living in agricultural areas where strawberries are grown,” Harley said.

The methyl bromide study is part of a 14-year, ongoing project by the scientists to investigate potential health effects of environmental exposures on children born in the Salinas Valley, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions.

The California Strawberry Commission and CropLife America, a trade group representing pesticide manufacturers, were unavailable for comment on the new study.

This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.

Stop Pesticide Poisonings: Time travel through international pesticide policies (2nd edition)

A new edition of the popular PAN Germany publication “Stop Pesticide Poisonings! A time travel through international pesticide policies” is now available at:
http://www.pan-germany.org/download/Stop_Pesticide_Poisonings_131212.pdf

It takes the reader on a quick journey through the years since pesticide poisonings in developing countries first came to international attention. It highlights the global efforts to solve pesticide-related problems, and looks behind the statements and statistics of dangerous pesticide use and poisonings in developing countries. The key message of Stop Pesticide Poisonings is that “safe use of highly hazardous pesticides” is not possible, especially in developing countries. It suggests the urgent need for a progressive ban of highly hazardous pesticides, while phasing in sustainable, ecosystem-based plant production systems.

Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning

Reuters, February 13 2012
http://www.pretorianews.co.za/monsanto-guilty-of-chemical-poisoning-1.1233287

A French court on Monday declared US biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.

In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois, 47, says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois’s losses to establish the amount of damages.

“It is a historic decision in so far as it is the first time that a (pesticide) maker is found guilty of such a poisoning,” François Lafforgue, Francois’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Monsanto said it was disappointed by the ruling and would examine whether to appeal the judgment.

“Monsanto always considered that there were not sufficient elements to establish a causal relationship between Paul Francois’s symptoms and a potential poisoning,” the company’s lawyer, Jean-Philippe Delsart, said.

Previous health claims from farmers have foundered because of the difficulty of establishing clear links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides.

Francois and other farmers suffering from illness set up an association last year to make a case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.

The agricultural branch of the French social security system says that since 1996, it has gathered farmers’ reports of sickness potentially related to pesticides, with about 200 alerts a year.

But only about 47 cases have been recognised as due to pesticides in the past 10 years. Francois, who suffers from neurological problems, obtained work invalidity status only after a court appeal.

LESS INTENSIVE NOW

The Francois case goes back to a period of intensive use of crop-protection chemicals in the European Union. The EU and its member countries have since banned a large number of substances considered dangerous.

Monsanto’s Lasso was banned in France in 2007 following an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries.

France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is now targetting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.

The Francois claim may be easier to argue than others because he can pinpoint a specific incident – inhaling the Lasso when cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer – whereas fellow farmers are trying to show accumulated effects from various products.

“It’s like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you,” said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named.

The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, says pesticides are all subject to testing and that any evidence of a cancer risk in humans leads to withdrawal of productsfrom the market.

“I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, UIPP’s managing director, said.

The social security’s farming branch this year is due to add Parkinson’s disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use after already recognising some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.

France’s health and environment safety agency (ANSES), meanwhile, is conducting a study on farmers’ health, with results expected next year. – Reuters

Revealed: the child victims of pesticide poisoning in India

Peter Caton and Beatriz Lopez

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1189820/revealed_the_child_victims_of_pesticide_poisoning_in_india.html

4th January, 2012

Endosulfan is the pesticide of choice for farmers in rural India trying to control insects threatening cashew nut and other crops – but the chemical can have devastating health impacts

A panorama of rolling hills distinguishes the landscape of Kasaragod, a northern district of the Indian state, Kerala. With fertile land and an abundance of water, the cashew industry once flourished amidst dense vegetation, red earth and coconut palms.

These forested valleys are home to rural communities still living off the land, such as Mamatha’s family who collect betel-nuts as their main source of income. The household of six adult siblings and their elderly father live in a small, overcrowded cottage, which they may have to sell to fund a series of operations that will remove the tumour distorting Mamatha’s face. Mamatha, her family claim, is an endosulfan poisoning victim.

Endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide, acts as a contact poison for a wide variety of insects and mites and has been used extensively worldwide on food crops like tea, fruits, vegetables and grains. Famed for its capacity to increase agricultural productivity, endosulfan has been officially banned in the state of Kerala for 10 years. In the 25 years leading up to the state ban, indiscriminate aerial spraying of cashew plantations contaminated the soil, water sources, wildlife and the communities of the Kasaragod District.

Already banned in over 80 countries, 127 represented governments agreed on a worldwide ban at the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) in April 2011. The Indian Government delegation contested the otherwise unanimous consensus. Facing huge financial losses due to the national agricultural industry’s heavy reliance on endosulfan, an 11-year phase out period with financial support was negotiated, giving Government appointed scientists time to develop a cost effective, alternative pest control.

However, last May, the manufacturing and usage of endosulfan in India was forced to a complete halt. Indian Chief Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia of the Supreme Court imposed an eight week national blanket ban on the pesticide until a conclusive study by an expert committee on whether toxicity levels of endosulfan was safe to humans and the environment had been submitted.

Controversially, the current national Union Agricultural Minister, Sharad Pawar, announced shortly after the ban that there was a lack of evidence to prove a negative impact on humans. He also denied anti-endosulfan protest from any state governments other than Kerala and neighbouring state Karnataka. Kerala and Karnataka were the only states where endosulfan was aerially sprayed, an approach not scientifically investigated at the time.

The pesticide victims in Kerala

In Kasaragod, the Keralan district worst hit by endosulfan poisonings, Leelakumari Amma, is employed as an agronomist by the Agricultural Department of her local Panchayatt. She has observed an abnormal amount of illnesses in the community, which triggered her suspicions about chemical poisoning.

‘People had to walk through these fields that had been sprayed as there was no transportation. Children walked through the fields. There were no butterflies; there were no birds; so it was concrete evidence for my suspicions.’

Dr Mohana Kumar, an activist and medical practitioner associated with Pesticide Action Network (PAN), says companies have violated human rights by not protecting water sources when aerially spraying the pesticide.

One former employee of a company using endosulfan, Achuthan Manniyeni, used to be responsible for preparing the pesticide for spraying in his area. He says the concrete mixing tub was located in a cashew field several metres from one of the district’s water basins, which was not covered properly during the aerial spraying.

It was also common practice to dump empty endosulfan cans in a nearby well. Gloves, soap and towels were not supplied to the employees according to Achuthan. Furthermore, he claims endosulfan was freely handed to local farmers after the ban was imposed on Kerala, and that one of his colleagues was contracted to bury containers on a nearby mountain in order to get rid of excessive stock.

The exact location is unknown as all of his five colleagues have since died from symptoms associated with endosulfan poisoning. Large quantities of the pesticide still remain undisposed of in Kerala, 10 years after it was banned in the state.

Local cashew farmer Ashraf disagrees that endosulfan is hazardous to human life, citing his own health as an example. He blames natural causes for the ailments people have been suffering.

‘Endosulfan has been produced to protect the trees from bugs. An increase of insects can also be harmful to the people.’ His business partner Mohammad says, ‘They say endosulfan has harmed a lot of people, but when you look at the economic side it is a pathetic situation.’ He recalls that when the cashew crops were treated with endosulfan, farmers collected an average of 700 kilos per day. Untreated, they collect 15 kilos to 30 kilos per day. ‘People have lost a lot of income’.

Until recently, endosulfan manufactured in India constituted 70 per cent of the global market, with its total exports valued at about Rs 1.8 billion (£22,000,000). Since the Green Revolution in India, agriculture has become a big export with India ranking second worldwide in terms of farm output with almost 30 per cent of its booming economy coming from the sector.

The lack of a permanent nationwide ban in India has led to growing reports of smuggling across state borders, particularly from Orissa where the chemical is said to still be openly available in the state capital and in Madhya Pradesh where stock is being sold at a premium rate of Rs 500 instead of Rs 250 per litre.

Meanwhile, people neighbouring or living within the predominantly national government owned cashew plantations continue to suffer the consequences of what had became a highly profitable industry; satisfying the demand of western palates at supermarket prices.

The poisoned children

Medical data compiled by health officials in Kerala suggests as many as 4,270 people may have been poisoned by endosulfan, with over 500 deaths linked to the chemical. Campaigners and families blame endosulfan for causing neurological and congenital deformities in babies:

Abhilash Bhat, who is 10, rolls around with difficulty on a floor mat at home. His head weighs 20 kg, roughly four times the weight of an average adult head. Born with hydrocephalus, a rare medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, his head has swelled to enormous proportions. The cranial pressure has shrunk his brain, causing total mental retardation.

His mother, Sreedevi had already miscarried two previous pregnancies and claims her first child died within 10 days from hydrocephalus. Doctors believed Abhilash would not survive and his parents were warned that conceiving another child would only lead to the same heartache: ‘We want another child, but we are scared.’

The high-risk operation needed to save his life may well bankrupt the family, who already struggle to make ends meet. Over half of their wage, earned from the collection and selling of betel-nut, is spent on medical and travel expenses incurred from Abhilash needing hospital treatment every three days.

Both born blind, sisters Rahina and Rasna are six and nine years old. Their parents Rajan and Rohina say that the difficulty of supporting two blind children with their minimal income earned through labouring work has forced them to separate the children. Rasna is now living with her maternal grandmother, while Rahina is partly cared for by her paternal grandmother who lives in the family home. After Rahina was born, they gave up on the prospect of a larger family for fear of conceiving another child with the same genetic disorder.

Is God to blame?

People were ignorant about the toxicity of endosulfan, believing in curses and ‘the will of God’. Sumitra and her husband Ganeshrao thought they had been cursed by the Serpent God Jataadhari and spent over Rs 200,000 (£2000) on religious rituals performed at a Hindu temple: their 16-year old daughter Soumya and 14 year old son, Arunkumar, would frequently experience fevers that eventually left them mute and crippled.

As the children are partially blind and deaf, they rely on smell to identify people and make simple gestures to have their needs met. Soumya drags herself across the home’s concrete floor as she is unable to walk. Rarely leaving their home and with no social services or physiotherapy, they receive little stimulation to improve their condition.

Sujatha was struck down with a reoccurring fever at the age of four which left her hospitalised on several occasions. At 28-years of age, her body has not developed properly and she has limited mobility in her limbs. Unable to support herself on her weak, child-size legs, she lives her life bound to her home.

Frustrated by her speech impairment, she speaks of her ongoing struggle with depression. Sujatha has no opportunity to marry and live a normal life, as she is completely dependent on her mother. Her mother explains that her energy levels prevent her from staying awake extended periods of time and that an exhausting menstrual cycle (3 times per month) causes her low blood pressure.

A year ago, a local youth group arranged monthly visits of a physiotherapist who is also an ayurvedic doctor, but her improvement has been minimal and she is still experiencing ongoing pain in her legs. Medicine was also received from a local government hospital for four months, but the home delivery service was suddenly stopped without an explanation. When questioned, the hospital explained they had run out of medicine. Sujatha was never clear what the prescription was for.

Gulabi lives in a small shack with her husband, mother-in-law and 4 children. An apparant endosulfan victim, she experienced her first symptoms after the birth of her second child. Her medical records say she has a ‘loco-motor disability’. Gulabi’s low blood pressure and weakness in her legs led to a fall which shattered her right femur. An operation to replace the bone has failed to improve her walking ability, and a lack of finance has prevented her from receiving follow up physiotherapy. The family survives on the Rs 150 (£2.10) per day her husband earns as a seasonal forager.

Another Bhopal disaster?

In an attempt to calm growing pressure, a compensation package has been offered by one major company involved in spraying endosulfan. A comprehensive package is also being launched by the Keralan State Health Department to be available in the 11 worst affected Panchayatts. Benefit cards are being registered under three categories; Class A, the worst affected victims, expecting to receive Rs 2000 monthly pensions (£27); an amount barely enough to cover medical expenses, let alone supplement the potential income loss of carers.

‘My greatest difficulty is not being able to leave my daughter unattended,’ says Sreeja, a mother of two young daughters. Her six-year old daughter Chaithany suffers from a severe neurological disorder and is unable to control her limbs or communicate. Sreeja is a fulltime caretaker, bound to her single roomed home, while her husband keeps the family afloat with menial labour; earning only Rs 250 (£3.50) per day.

In December 2010, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission K. G. Balakrishnan went as far as comparing the endosulfan devastation to the Bhopal gas tragedy. Others like activist B. Ashraf from the Kerala-based NGO Thanal, call it a ‘government chemical warfare on its own people.’

Pesticide industry blames EU and NGOs 

Representatives of the pesticide industry dismiss the health concerns as a EU/Western ploy. The Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) has been reported as saying that the government was folding under pressure from environmental groups. ‘This is playing straight into the hands of vested interests such as the European Union, who have a direct business interest in the ban of endosulfan. The overall design of the EU stakeholders is to ban this popular low-cost, off-patent pesticide and replace it with expensive patented products.’

While Kerala suggested alternatives to endosulfan, all other 20 states have denied any knowledge of health problems associated with endosulfan; insisting it was the cheapest pesticide on the market and friendly towards pollinators. Suggestions were made that the ‘poisoning’ of humans, livestock and wildlife in Kasaragod was an isolated incident resulting from the aerial spraying of endosulfan in Kerala.

Pesticide manufacturers argued that possible causes for health problems within the region could be linked to inbreeding, iodine deficiency and radiation, and that all opposition to the use of endosulfan was politically motivated.

However, reports from Karanataka by consumer activists such as Sanjeev Arora tell a different story, ‘people are suffering from problems like congenital deformities, mental retardation and physical deformities. The impact is similar to those affected in Kerala’s Kasaragod village.’

According to official figures, 32,604 litres of Endosulfan was aerially sprayed between 1980 and 2000 on 850 hectares in Belthangady and Puttur Taluks in Dakshin Kannada, and a further 11,225 litres were sprayed manually in the region. Nearly 20 villages were affected. ‘Health conditions in these villages are scary,’ says Sanjeev.

Twenty-seven nations globally are said to still use endosulfan including several African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe – making endosulfan is the third largest selling pesticide on the global market with a value of £191.5 million.

The danger now, say campaigners, is that, despite all the evidence against endosulfan, big business will be allowed to continue taking precedence over human health and the environment.

Six months after the interim ban was put in place on the production and sale of endosulfan, the Supreme Court is no nearer to reaching a verdict as to whether the ban should be made permanent, with no real solutions of how to appropriately dispose of stock either.

While the question of evidence remains – blocking an immediate, permanent national ban in India – Dr. Kumar puts conflicting scientific evidence into perspective: ‘You can argue anything because you cannot test on humans. You have to consider the circumstantial evidence.’

In the meantime, parents of victims like Carmina Costa, who has been promised a consolatory yet miniscule compensation, fear for future generations’ lives. ‘My prayer is that this should never happen again. So many children, so many mothers are suffering. This is my prayer to the government.’

All photographs supplied by Peter Caton. Words by Beatriz Lopez.

 

Endosulfan Poisons Indian Rivers Special

Kailasahar – Rampant use of Endosulfan is poisoning rivers in north east region of India – the world’s largest producer and exporter of the hazardous chemical.

Illegal use of endosulfan to catch fish has endangered lives of hundreds living along Manu – a trans-boundary river that originates in Tripura state in North eastern India. In order to make a fast buck, illegal traders are mixing the highly toxic pesticide in the river upstream. Once it’s mixed, the chemical is then carried by the current all the way down to Bangladesh where river Manu merges into river Kushiara.

The use of endosulfun has been disastrous on marine life of the river: several fish species have disappeared altogether, while many others have become extremely rare. In the list of the vanished species are Tiger fish, Dwarf Goonch and Ar – giant fishes that the river was once famous for. Even Sind Danio, Wallogo, Indian river shad, and turtles which were commonly found even 10 years ago are now extremely rare. There has also been a significant drop in the fish population by the locals.

Renuka Dutta, 67, lived for over 30 years in Durgapur – a village by river Manu. She says that use of poison to catch fish was always there. In fact it used to be an annual affair every winter, like a ‘community picnic’. She, however, had never heard of anyone using any synthetic poison or chemical.

“Every winter – around January/February, people used to collect vishlat – a poison ivy found in abandance in the nearby forests and extract the juice to put that in the river as due to cold fishes would not come to the surface too often. Once mixed in water, the juice would blind the fish temporarily, but would do no harm to humans,” says Dutta.

However, in recent years, endosulfun has replaced the traditional use of herbs. The frequency of use too increased. For example, in past 1 month alone, there have been 4 instances of river poisoning.

Amar Mitra, a local farmer and a fishing enthusiast says, “When poison ivy was used, we could see fish thrashing around in the water blindly. But now we see dead fish floating.”

Since fish curry and rice is the staple diet of the locals, the demand of fish is always high in the local market. With food prices going higher and higher, the chances of making a kill (a kg of medium size of fish can fetch as high as Rs 350) is drawing many people into this illegal practice, using endosulfan which is easy to buy and is far more lethal.

But this is not only causing havoc on the marine life, but putting the health of the locals as well as people downstream at stake.

No wonder, there has been a significant increase in the number of people suffering from water borne diseases such as dysentery and gastroenteritis in villages along Manu, as well as Deo – a tributary of river Manu which has also seen fishing by endosulfan poisoning. Once seen as ‘monsoon sicknesses’, now such diseases are also becoming common in winter, thanks to endosulfan.

Endosulfan has been banned or is being phased out in most countries, including the EU and the US. After years of resistance, in May this year, India also agreed to a phased out ban on the toxic pesticide, under an agreement signed by 127 nations of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/314131#ixzz1dEca7nDc