Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) calls for precaution to address the issue of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) which impacts women’s health and wellbeing. PAN AP in collaboration with 12 partner organizations from 9 countries in the region is launching the No Pesticide Use Week (NPUW) campaign with the theme Women and Highly Hazardous Pesticides to highlight this issue. NPUW will start on 3rd December in memory of the 1984 Bhopal Disaster, and culminate on December 10, which is World Human Rights Day.
This year’s NPUW focuses on the adverse impacts of HHPs on women to call the attention on the need of effective international actions towards the reduction and elimination of HHPs and their impacts/exposures on women. Various awareness raising activities will be conducted to highlight the need for a progressive ban of HHPs and the urgency to advance ecological agriculture practices.
PAN AP publications will be used as campaign materials. Dr. Meriel Watt’s in her book Pesticides and Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call shows compelling evidence of harm to women. PAN AP’s summarized brochure of the book has been released for NPUW.
Dr. Watts, also PAN AP’s senior science advisor says “It is important to raise awareness of the serious health risks posed by HHPs particularly to women, because they absorb and store pesticides more readily than men. The health hazard increases dramatically for agriculture worker women because of their routine exposure to hazardous pesticides, which is all the more alarming for pregnant women working in the fields because of potential congenital problems for the unborn child, such as birth defects, as well as development difficulties and cancer later in life.”
Participating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local grassroots organizations urge their governments to comply with international regulation in monitoring pesticide use in their countries. Nasira Habib, director of Khoj-Society for People’s Education in Pakistan says “The way pesticides are being used and handled we don’t need wars to threaten and finish human life. It is not a secret that women are most adversely affected by the deadly poisons which can also result in deformed future generations. We urge the Government of Pakistan to take urgent action to fulfill the international commitments to regulate and control the use of pesticides”.
For some partners, this is the joyful moment to celebrate the victory with others, when the government finally taking steps to phase out HHPs. Jayakumar Chelaton, director of Thanal, in Kerala, India says “on the occasion of NPUW, we are extremely happy that the state minister for agriculture, Sri. Mullakkara Ratnakaran declared that the State government of Kerala is taking steps to phase out HHPs from Kasaragod in its attempt to make Kasaragod a pesticide free district as part of the program to make Kerala Pesticide free”.
The world must not forget the tragedy of Bhopal that up to this day continues to severely afflict people, particularly women and children.
Twenty six years ago on December 3, 1984, Dow’s factory (formerly Union Carbide) in Bhopal, India leaked 27 tons of poisonous gas and immediately killed about 3,000 – 4000 people and left 50,000 injured. Since then, thousands more have died from gas-related illnesses, like lung cancer, kidney failure and liver disease. Children born to parents affected by this disaster still suffer the effects of the poisonous gases. The nursing milk of women living near the factory contains hazardous chemicals, such as chloroform, lead, and mercury.
Since 1998, PAN AP and its partners commemorate the tragic episode of Bhopal Disaster of 3rd December 1984 to draw attention to the life threatening impacts of HHPs on people’s health and the environment.