This week, reports from two different NGOs who conducted two independent studies, point to the same fact - pesticides are being used in an unregulated manner in the country.
Heavy doses of pesticides have been detected in one Government hospital and four leading private hospitals in the Capital, according to a survey conducted by Delhi-based non-Government organization Toxics Link. The survey, undertaken to gauge pesticide abuse
in city hospitals, found heavy doses of dangerous chemicals like pyrethroids, carbamate, organophosphate, coumarin, pyrazole and inorganic zinc being used without checks in the screened hospitals, posing risk of diseases such as cancer, genetic damage, decreased
fertility, stillbirth and disturbed immune system resulting in asthma and allergy. Conducted in January this year, the study revealed that 80 per cent of the hospitals surveyed used chemical pesticides and hired an outside contractor to do the job. Also, all
these hospitals used pesticides routinely without examining the need for them.
A study by the Centre for Science and Environment has detected in the blood of the state's farmers chemicals from six to 13 pesticides, in quantities up to 600 times the levels found in Americans. "If it's Punjab today, tomorrow it could be Uttar Pradesh,
Maharashtra and Bihar. Regulation must begin immediately," the Center's director, Sunita Narain, said. The tests were undertaken following media reports of an increase in cancer cases in Punjab. Although Narain could not link the pesticides (organochlorine
and organophosphate) in the bloodstream with cancer as she wasn't sure exactly what harm they did to humans, studies on animals have shown that even a single instance of low-level exposure to some organophosphates can cause changes in the brain's chemistry.
Early childhood exposure can lead to lasting effects on learning, attention and behavior. The study, conducted in October, during spraying time, tested 20 randomly selected blood samples from four villages: Mahi Nangal, Jajjal and Balloh in Bathinda district
and Dher in Ropar district. The levels of certain organochlorine pesticides in the blood samples have been found to be very high - between 15 and 605 times higher than those found in samples of people in the United States, tested by the US Center for Disease
Control and Prevention (and published) in its 2003 report. Narain suggested the chemical content of pesticides in India must be different from those in the US and that Indian farmers don't take adequate precautions while spraying the chemicals in their fields.
These reports call for immediate action in regulating the use of pesticides by formulating policies towards the aim and raising awareness.