GENEVA, Switzerland, September 28, 2004 (ENS):
Children are facing higher risks from pesticides than
adults and need greater protection against these chemicals,
particularly in developing countries, three United Nations
agencies urge in a new report presented to ministers
and senior officials from 130 governments on Friday
As many as five million cases of pesticide poisoning
occur each year worldwide. The number of children exposed
is unknown, but the report describes the heightened
vulnerability of children whose exposure may occur in
the womb, from their food and water, or from exposure
to soil, dust and contaminated objects they encounter
"Most of the poisonings take place in rural areas
of developing countries, where safeguards typically
are inadequate or lacking altogether," says the
report, "Child Pesticide Poisoning: Information
for Advocacy and Action."
The problem disproportionately affects the developing
world, the report said. Developing countries use 25
percent of the world's production of pesticides, yet
they account for 99 percent of deaths caused by these
The agencies that compiled the report - the World Health
Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) - recommend
reducing and eliminating possible exposures, keeping
pesticides better secured and providing health care
training to recognize cases of poisoning.
The report was issued as governments met in Geneva
for the first ministerial conference of the Rotterdam
Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for
Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International
Trade. The United States is a signatory to that agreement
but has not yet ratified the convention.
“Technical assistance for developing countries
will be vital for the Convention’s long-term success,”
said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer. “Both
national and international resources will be needed
to maintain momentum and ensure that the Rotterdam Convention
achieves a universal membership.”
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.
Poverty is a contributing factor, the UN agencies report.
In poor families, children often help out on family
farms where pesticides are used. Pesticide users, including
teenagers, may lack access to protective equipment such
as gloves and masks, and receive no training. As a result,
pesticides may be used by young workers carelessly,
and without protection.
In many developing countries, the marketing and advertisement
of pesticides is often uncontrolled or illicit, the
report states. Misbranded or unlabeled formulations,
including ready-made solutions in soft drink bottles
and other unlabelled liquid containers, are sold at
open stands. Low retail prices promote pesticide use
but weak legislation and inadequate law enforcement
fail to control risks.
The Rotterdam Convention facilitates information exchange
on a broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals
and gives importing countries the power to decide whether
or not they want to receive future imports of certain
The first conference of the Convention’s member
states since the agreement entered into force on February
24 closed on Friday with agreement to add 14 new hazardous
chemicals and pesticides to an initial watch list of
“By increasing the number of hazardous chemicals
and pesticides that require prior informed consent before
being exported by almost 50 percent, governments have
given the Rotterdam Convention an enthusiastic vote
of confidence,” said FAO Assistant Director-General
More chemicals will be added to the Prior Informed
Consent list in the future. A Chemical Review Committee
established at the conference will assess future proposals
to add new chemicals and pesticides to the list.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All