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Children Facing High Risks from Pesticide Poisoning

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Children are facing higher risks from pesticides than adults and need greater protection against these chemicals, particularly in developing countries, according to a joint report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Pesticide poisoning is a serious health problem that disproportionately affects infants and children, the UN report, called "Child Pesticide Poisoning: Information for Advocacy and Action" and issued this week in Geneva, said. The number of children affected is unknown, but based on the experience of many countries, likely to be large. The report highlights both the magnitude of the problem and the need to put more efforts into better reaching and helping the rural, disadvantaged populations who are most affected by pesticide poisoning.
It has been reported that an estimated one million to five million cases of pesticide poisonings occur every year, resulting in several thousands of fatalities, including children, the report said.

Most of the poisonings take place in rural areas of developing countries, where safeguards typically are inadequate or lacking altogether. Although developing countries use 25 % of the worlds production of pesticides, they experience 99 % of the deaths due to pesticide poisoning, the report said.

Children face a higher risk from pesticides because they may be more susceptible than adults or more greatly exposed than adults, the report said. Children's behaviour - playing and ignorance of risks - result in greater potential for exposure. Malnutrition and dehydration increase their sensitivity to pesticides. Currently around 200 million children are suffering from malnutrition.

Pesticide poisoning can occur via breathing, drinking or eating, or through the skin or mucous membranes. The symptoms resulting from acute poisoning may range from fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, to respiratory and neurological effects that may be life-threatening. Chronic, and even low-level exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and damage the nervous and the functioning of the endocrine system.
Diet can be a major source of exposure for children. As they grow, children drink more water and eat more food, per body weight, than do adults. Water and food containing pesticide residues may therefore be a source of chronic, low-level or high-level pesticide exposure.
Growing food on or near contaminated soils, using contaminated water on crops or for washing puts people and children at particular risk.

When a mother to be is exposed to pesticides, the child becomes exposed as well, before birth, while still in the womb. Small children can also come into contact with persistent and bio-accumulative pesticides through breast-feeding. Protecting pregnant women and lactating mothers from exposure to toxic contaminants is therefore crucial.

Two key international conventions are aiming at reducing the adverse health and environmental aspects of pesticides: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), created to reduce and eliminate 12 POPs of which nine are pesticides, and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. The first ministerial conference of the Rotterdam Convention ends today in Geneva.


Joint release from WHO/FAO/UNEP


Source: The Organic Advantage

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