Saturday, April 30, 2011

Endosulfan debate in India- Whose life is it anyway?

Endosulfan is a pesticide and it is an organochlorine which is known to persist in the environment causing damage to aquatic systems and is known to bioaccumulate and travel long distances. Australian chemical regulatory body APVMA has cancelled its registration since Oct 2010. (1).

In India it has been used frequently and indiscriminately as if it is a harmless chemical. Indian government claims to defend its usage as if there are no other alternatives available. This is the defense it has been using for quite considerable number of years. This argument is used to ensure agriculture productivity is maintained (even though it hovers around 2% so no great productivity). However in agriculture areas where is it used frequently it has alleged to have caused severe deformities in new born babies to cancer among adults. However the government either state or central governments have not made much effort to prove this scientifically. States such as Kerala and more recently Karnataka have banned the use of this chemicals. In Geneva recent convention has led to a decision to ban this although India won some exemptions. However this still does not solve the issue as to what caused these deformities and cancers. Is it truly Endosulfan or some other cause? Although Endosulfan is known for its environmental hazardous nature without proper scientific proof Indian governments do not have a scientific leg to stand on.

Another key factor to note in the use of Pesticides in India is the sheer lack of comprehensive Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) or Proper Lables. In the western countries the MSDS is comprehensive with Minimum/maximum residual limits and minimum withholding periods. Apart from these farmers and horticultural staff are trained in the safe use of these chemical and use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&S). In India, I have yet to come across these legislations for agriculture. In India pesticides herbicides and insecticides are used indiscriminately without the proper use of PPEs. This leads to the question was it Endosulfan or some other chemical which is still not banned in India yet farmers use it indiscriminately without PPE and expose themselves, their families and general public who buy these vegetables, fruits and other food products not knowing how much of pesticide residue is still remaining. Washing need not remove all the chemicals from food products. 

This leads a serous question Indian agricultural productivity at what cost? to the farmers and general public. Is Indian government interested in just feeding the public to shut them up or is it interested in public health? Do farmers children and families have to pay the price for feeding Indian population?. Already over 150,000 farmers have committed suicides in India due to various reasons how many more need to be scarified? Are the public so complacent or ignorant or blaze' about these issues that they don't care? Every time public consume these chemicals even in micrograms if they bioaccumulate there is a chance that they can cause health problems. In a country like India where governments and private organizations are not interested in conducting research on these issues, it may never be known what is the price the population is paying for so called productivity and growth.

The answer for general public is to wash all vegetables with water thoroughly as much as you can to reduce the chemical intake. If possible grow as many vegetables as possible. To their credit both Kerala and Karnataka governments have banned the Endosulfan use. They can go a step forward and train the farmers in safe use of chemicals. Even if they spend 10% of the money they spend on unnecessary fertilizer subsidies on training the farmers in safe use of agrochemicals many health problems can be reduced. This is a serious environmental and public health issue which government needs to address immediately. India may have agricultural sector growth but could pay a very heavy price in the longer term in the health sector and overall productivity.

It is high time Indian public paid attention to these matters and demanded better policies from their governments.



(2). This is the Product information for Thiodan ( Endosulfan) in India.

Active Ingredient:
a Product Category:
   Foliar Insecticide
a Mode of Action:
   Contact & stomach insecticide.
a Crops:
   All pulses, vegetables, fruits, rice, cotton, tea, soybean
a Year of Registration In India:
a Disease Spectrum/ Weed Spectrum (for Herbicides):
   All pests belonging to Lepidoptera, Homoptera, Coleoptera , Diptera, Thysanptera
a Formulation Categories:
   EC - Emulsifiable Concentrate
a Cropwise Dosages:
   1 - 1.25 lt/ha
a Product Features and Benefits:
   Contact & Stomach poison. An ideal partner in IPM/HRM
a Antidote:
   1. Gastric lavage with a mixture of activated charcoal-2 parts, magnesium oxide - 1 part, and tannic acid - 1part in 300 ml warm water
...2. Saline pugative may be given but oil laxative should not be given
...3. To induce sedation and control convulsions phenobarbitone (upto 0.7 g per day) or phenobarbitone (0.25 to 0.5 g per day) may be given
...4. 10% Calcium gluconate may be given intravenously to control spasms. Epinephrine is contraindicated.
a Precautions:
   Handle with care, Poisonous, Do not touch or Inhale the contents.
a Toxicity Indication:
   Highly Toxic.

The question is why was this product allowed to be

sprayed as an aerial spray despite company labels asks

people not to touch it?

Endosulfan poisoning
Ronald Anil Fernandes Deccan Herald 1-05-2011

The fight is not over yet for victims of the pesticide who need to be compensated

 All three children of this family in Alankar village near Mangalore are lifetime victims of endosulfan. Photos by AuthorTwenty-six-year-old Vidya and her twin brothers Diwakar and Dinesh, 24, of Alankar village on Uppinangady–Subramanya road in Dakshina Kannada district, about 75 km from Mangalore, would have been gainfully employed  or perhaps happily married, had they been like others their age. Instead, they are  confined to the four walls of their house since birth.

Their mother Rajeevi has to fend for them — right from feeding them to their other daily needs. Their future is uncertain. Sadanand, a postman and an activist, attributes their plight to probable use of water or eating fish from the rivulet nearby where trucks carrying endosulfan pesticide were washed many years ago.

Sheelavathi, 43, resident of Aethadka, about 30 km from Kasargod, can speak and think like any woman. But she is  completely paralysed below the neck for the last 30-odd years. She explains her misery: “I was in Class II when  a helicopter passed overhead spraying something (endosulfan), which doused me also. As soon as I reached home, I collapsed. That was the last day I walked. My parents took me to different doctors in vain. My father passed away leaving my mother to take care of me. My only brother too died in an accident sometime ago.”

Her mother Devaki would lock her up in the house and go to work. Of late, Devaki (over 70 years) has not been working. She waits for their relative Shankari to bathe Sheelavathi, who is barely three feet.

These are but two examples from two coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka) and Kasargod (Kerala) out of thousands of victims of endosulfan, a pesticide used by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) since 1978. The purpose was simple: To get high yield from cashew plantations spread over thousands of acres of fertile land across both districts. The result: Thousands of victims suffering from various illnesses, including cancer, asthma, mental retardation, allergy, early onset of menstruation or delayed sexual maturity and impotency among others.

Doctor reveals horror…

The horror tales came to light when Dr Mohan Kumar, a medical practitioner at Swarga in Kasargod district, wrote an article in Kerala Medical Journal about the unusual increase in human and cattle suffering way back in 1996 and subsequently in ‘Down to Earth’ in 2000, establishing a link between spraying of endosulfan and human suffering. “Almost all children born during the ‘endosulfan period’ are suffering from one or other disability, he said. At the same time, a group of post graduate students led by Dr Ravindranath Shanbhag (then professor of Pharmacology in KMC, Manipal) conducted a study and brought 103 patients (out of 400 identified by Dr Mohan Kumar) to Manipal and tested them. To their surprise, the types of diseases matched with scientific literature,  establishing the vital link. Out of them, 23 were mentally retarded, 20 suffered from epilepsy, 43 from mental illness. It is then that  Kerala agriculture minister Krishnan K sought to know why endosulfan affected only Kerala when it was being sprayed in border areas of Karnataka too. “We rushed to areas mentioned by the minister - Kokkada, Patrame and surrounding region - and enquired with residents. A thorough investigation revealed that there were many people with similar deformities, which had not been noticed before,” Dr Shanbhag recalls.

While Kerala government has identified 4,273 victims (including 525 bed-ridden), Karnataka government is yet to identify all victims. While three villages have been surveyed, 27 other villages are yet to be covered.

Social  activists put the figure at several thousand victims in both the districts. Dr Shanbhag says that he has collected details about 6,500 children suffering from various diseases in the affected parts of Dakshina Kannada district alone.

K Shankar, a resident of Kajampady in Kasargod district and former employee of Cashew Project of Kasargod (later Plantation Corporation of Kerala),  alleges that real victims have not been  compensated while those with prior deformities had falsely claimed compensation.

Janaki (52), Pammu (65), Bhagya (65), Madaru (70), Chimploo (68), Aithappa (60) and Ammanni (50) are just a few to name. All of them have worked for PCK and have been victims for the last several years. But till date, they have not received any compensation, alleged Shankar.

Gene analysis must

Dr Shanbhag insists that every boy/girl of marriageable age from the affected areas must undergo gene analysis to prevent defective children being born.

There are at least 1,800 pregnant women in the sprayed areas of Dakshina Kannada district alone, most of whom never go for scanning (from which physical deformities can be identified) before delivery. “The government has to arrange for their scanning,” he asserts.

Sridhar Gowda, who lost his eyesight but is a ray of hope to many victims in Kokkada and Patrame, says the victims are poor and the government must provide compensation as well as monthly pension to meet their medical expenses.

Notwithstanding the global ban on endosulphan, until the government takes firm measures to eliminate harmful pesticides in the market under different names, the numbers of these victims, just a few thousands now, is bound to grow.

When a government enterprise itself sells the dreaded pesticide worth crores of rupees, how effective will a ban be is the million dollar question.
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Karnataka to re-impose ban on endosulfan
Belgaum (Karnataka), April 30 (IANS)

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Saturday said the government will re-impose within two days the ban on use of pesticide Endosulfan in the state.

"We will promulgate an ordinance within two days to ban endosulfan's use in the state as it is harmful to health of the people," Yeddyurappa told reporters in this north Karnataka town, about 500 kms from Bangalore.

Karnataka had Feb 17 banned Endosulfan use for 60 days. The state has been demanding a nation-wide ban.

Endosulfan has been extensively used in Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts on the west coast to protect cashew crop from diseases.

While imposing the 60-day ban Feb 17, the Karnataka cabinet had said that aerial spraying of the insecticide had resulted in various health problems such as children suffering physical deformities and mental retardation, skin cancer and epilepsy.

Decision is victory of people against pesticide lobby, says Achuthanandan
Geneva meet bans endosulfan

The ongoing sixth conference of parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Pollutants in Geneva has accepted a global ban on the pesticide endosulfan whose continuous use is believed to have caused serious health problems in parts of Kerala and Karnataka.

The conference took the decision based on the risk profile and risk management for endosulfan done by the Persistent Organic Pollutant Review Committee.

The ban, which will cover technical endosulfan, its related isomers and endosulfan sulphate, is expected to take over five years to show some effect. The Union Cabinet will have to ratify the decision if the ban has to take effect in the country.

According to C Jayakumar, environmentalist and an independent observer  attending the meet, though the conference approved the ban which was recommended, India was also allowed sufficient exemptions that it demanded.

This means that endosulfan can still be used against specified pests in cotton, jute, coffee, tea, tobacco, cowpeas, beans, tomato, okra, eggplant, onion, potato, chillies, apple, mango, gram, arhar, maize, rice, wheat, groundnut and mustard till alternatives are found.

There is no other cheaper and effective broad spectrum pesticide available to Indian farmers as of now.

CM breaks news
Incidentally, the “breaking news’’ in Kerala came from the office of Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan who has been in the vanguard of the “ban endosulfan movement” raging in the state for the past several months. In the last few weeks, the state had witnessed a mass campaign for a national ban on the pesticide spearheaded by none other than the state’s 87-year-old chief minister.

Achuthanandan had even sat on a day’s hunger strike here three days ago with this demand. Understandably, the state which observed a shutdown on Friday on a call by the ruling LDF received the news of the global ban with a sense of fulfilment.
“The decision in Geneva is the victory of the people against the pesticide lobby. It was our unflinching resistance that forced the Centre to change its pro-endosulfan stand at the last minute, leading to the ban,’’ he said.

Endosulfan is believed to have been the single reason for the unusually large number of babies born with physical deformities and neurological disorders in parts of Kasargod in the last 20 years.

Investigations pointed out that the aerial spraying of endosulfan for 20 years since 1970 in the cashew plantations owned by the state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala may have resulted in the disorders.

Some Karnataka villages adjoining Kasargod have also reported health disorders. Though Kerala had banned the use of the pesticide in 2005 it was not effectively implemented. Karnataka had banned the pesticide recently.

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