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PAN AP launches book on insidious effects of pesticides

For Immediate Release
December 3, 2013

From: Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)

"Poisoning Our Future": PAN AP launches book on insidious effects of pesticides on children

Government institutions overlook negative impact of highly hazardous pesticides on children's health according to new book. Calls for the application of the precautionary approach to protect health and the environment during No Pesticide Use Week.

Penang, Malaysia (3 Dec 2013) - Toxic chemicals such as pesticides pollute our surroundings - from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe in our homes, farms, communities, at schools and work and even our own bodies. Children are exposed to these pesticides and are very much vulnerable to the negative health effects of these harmful chemicals. Yet, governments and industry overlook these impacts on children's health despite the availability of safer alternatives to pesticides. These are all discussed in the book "Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides" that Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) is launching during No Pesticide Use Week starting 3 December. 

"Children are not little adults. The activities they do make them more prone to accumulate pesticides in their bodies; and their developing bodies make them more prone to the negative effects of toxic chemicals such as pesticides. Yet government regulatory processes and tests do not look into these effects," according to Dr Meriel Watts, author of the book. Tests used to approve use of pesticides do not look into endocrine disruption which can impact the physical, intellectual and behavioural development of the foetus and young child. The effects can include ADHD and autism and even conditions like obesity and breast cancer that can show up later in life in what is now referred to as the "foetal origins of adult disease". Some childhood cancers like leukaemia have been linked to the exposure of parents to pesticides. Highly hazardous pesticides also damage the developing immune, nervous and reproductive systems. 

Children are born pre-polluted; women's bodies are contaminated by highly hazardous pesticides. Disabilities among children of parents exposed to pesticides are well-documented: in Kasargod, where communities have been exposed to aerial spraying of endosulfan; in Vietnam, where parents have been exposed to Agent Orange (a deadly mixture of herbicides); or in Bhopal, where a pesticide facility leaked in 1983 that caused thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands more suffering up to this day. No Pesticide Use Week continues to be held as a stark reminder of pesticide horrors during the December 3 eve of the Bhopal tragedy.  PAN AP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam, emphasizing the urgency of the problem, said "the pesticide industry has evaded responsibility and accountability despite the harms caused and continues to generate billions of dollars in profits. This has to stop now if we are to protect our lives, the health of women, that of our children and their mothers, and of future generations." 

Yet, despite all the known harms of pesticides, the agrochemical industry continues to peddle the myth that pesticides are necessary and could be safely used. "Even very small amounts - way below what is considered harmful - are actually highly dangerous to health especially children's. What makes the continued use of pesticides unacceptable is that safe agroecological alternatives are successfully implemented and used by farmers. Governments need to take heed and follow their example", adds Dr Watts. Various communities, civil society organisations, and thousands of farmers in Asia now use alternatives showing much improved livelihoods with the shift to non-pesticide management of crops. 
PAN AP urges governments to apply the precautionary approach in regulating pesticides.  Regulatory tests and standards should consider particular impacts on children's health. Applied to agriculture, the principle of minimal harm means that management of pest, weeds and disease must be by means that minimise damage to humans, especially children. Governments should shift its support towards community and farmer initiatives on non-chemical agriculture. If safe agroecological methods exist, pesticides should not be considered for use at all. PAN AP supports the progressive ban of highly hazardous pesticides called for by the FAO Council back in 2007 and reiterated by over sixty countries in the 2012 3rd International Conference on Chemicals Management in Nairobi.
Starting 3 December, communities and organizations all the over the world are jointly celebrating "No Pesticide Use Week" (NPUW) to highlight the impacts of pesticides on children's lives and call on the progressive ban of highly hazardous pesticides. To know more about these negative impacts, read the book here<> .


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