Hon. Moses Jn Baptiste
THE Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board of Saint Lucia, in conjunction with the Coordinating Group of Pesticide Control Boards of the Caribbean (CGPC), commemorates Pesticides Awareness Week 2015. Pesticides Awareness Week will be observed from September 20 to 26, 2015 and the theme is “Protect Children from Pesticides”.
In general, a pesticide is a chemical or biological agent that deters, incapacitates, kills, or otherwise discourages pests. In the household setting, a pesticide is any bait, liquid, powder, or spray used to kill a pest. Most people aren’t aware that household pesticides – the products we use in and around our homes to kill ants, germs, cockroaches, flies, mice, rats, and termites – can harm a child’s health if stored or used improperly.
Children are at a greater risk of pesticide poisoning for a number of reasons. Children’s internal organs are still developing and maturing and their enzymatic, metabolic, and immune systems may provide less natural protection than those of an adult. There are “critical periods” in human development when exposure to a toxin, such as a pesticide can permanently alter the way an individual’s biological system operates. Children may be exposed more to certain pesticides because often they eat different foods than adults.
For instance, children typically consume larger quantities of milk, apple sauce and orange juice per pound of body weight than do adults. Most of these products may have been in one way or another exposed to pesticides. Children can come into contact with pesticides that are stored or applied in their homes, yards, day-cares, schools, parks, farms etc., or used on pets. Children often touch things (that may contain a pesticide) and put their hands in their mouths. They also crawl and play on floors, grass, or in spaces that might contain pesticides. These activities may put them at higher risks for poisoning. Contact with pesticides may cause serious harm to a child’s health.
The adverse effects of pesticide exposure range from mild symptoms of dizziness and nausea to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders. Each year we use thousands of pounds of pesticides to combat pests. Each year hundreds of children under the age of six are poisoned by common household pesticide products. The Pesticide Action Network of North America noted that neurotoxic pesticides are clearly implicated as contributors to the rising rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, widespread declines in IQ and other measures of cognitive function. Studies from medical science have indicated that pesticide exposure contributes to a number of increasingly common health outcomes for children, including cancer, birth defects and early puberty. Evidence of links to certain childhood cancers is particularly strong. Emerging science suggests that pesticides may be important contributors to the current epidemic of childhood asthma, obesity and diabetes. Extremely low levels of pesticide exposure can cause significant harm to health, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood. Many parents still store pesticide products within the reach of children. One of the simplest ways of preventing pesticide poisoning is to store household products out of a child’s reach.
In countries of the first world, it has been observed that a diet containing fresh fruit and vegetables far outweighs the potential risks from consuming very low levels of residues of pesticides in crops. To support this fact, the dietary guidelines of America noted that eating fruit and vegetables regularly reduces the risk of many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases.
Further, because the use of pesticides improves crop yields, crop protection technologies also impact the cost of food. Without crop protection chemicals food production would decline, many fruits and vegetables would be in short supply and prices would rise. Helping to keep food prices in check for the consumer is another large benefit of pesticides. Pesticides also allow consumers to consume high-quality produce that is free of insect blemishes and contamination. Crop protection chemicals that reduce and in some cases, eliminate insect damage, allow the consumer to purchase high-quality produce free of insect fragments.
The sporting sector makes extensive use of pesticides, particularly herbicides. which are used to maintain the turf on sports pitches, cricket grounds and golf courses. Insecticides protect buildings and other wooden structures from damage by termites and wood boring insects.
The Government of Saint Lucia has recognized the importance of protecting the health of our nation, as well as our children, and has instituted strategic interventions aimed at regulating and managing the indiscriminate entry and use of agrochemicals and toxic chemicals in the country. One such measure is the enactment of the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Act of 2001 which allows for the establishment of the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, to regulate the importation, use and disposal of such chemicals in the country.
This Board is responsible for the registration and licensing of all pesticides and toxic chemicals. It also ensures that registered pesticides are used and disposed of properly and that Saint Lucians are sensitized and educated about agrochemicals, their effect, and their management in our daily lives.
On this occasion of Pesticide Awareness Week 2015, I wish to commend the Board for the major role it has been playing in regulating the importation, distribution, sale, use and disposal of pesticides in Saint Lucia and ensuring that the public is informed regarding the safe use of pesticides.
I wish all Saint Lucian pesticide suppliers, farmers, householders and all who use pesticides an informed Awareness Week and beyond. Safety first must be a way of life. We must make the protection of human health and the environment the absolute priority in pest and disease management decisions.