Endosulfan: workers hate it too

To commemorate Workers Memorial Day, April 28, 2008, many worker and community health advocacy groups including the Environmental Justice Foundation, Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN Europe), and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) joined forces to call for an end to all uses of the toxic pesticide endosulfan.

The following is excerpted from website reports by the above groups: 

Many cases of endosulfan-related poisoning, including fatalities, have been reported - in Benin, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, and USA. It is one of the main causative agents of acute poisoning in Central America, in southern India and other areas.

Endosulfan has caused congenital birth defects, reproductive health problems, cancers, loss of immunity, neurological and neurobehavioural problems amongst villagers in Kerala (India) who were exposed to 26 years of aerial endosulfan spraying on neighbouring cashew nut plantations.

Endosulfan may be the most important source of fatal poisoning among West Africa’s cotton farmers. In Benin’s cotton industry, endosulfan caused 400 accidental poisonings, including 53 deaths, between 2000 and 2003 - 69% of all pesticide poisonings. In a single province in Benin, at least 37 people died from endosulfan poisoning in just one season.

In 2007, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that “Occupational assessment for endosulfan indicates short- and intermediate-term risks for mixers, loaders, and applicators for the majority of uses, even with maximum Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and engineering controls.”

From October 13-17, 2008 the POPs Review Committee will be meeting in Geneva to assess the potential to include endosulfan under the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. An affirmative response from the Review Committee would trigger consideration at the political level leading to the potential global elimination of endosulfan in 2009.

Following this, from October 27-31, 2008 the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (PIC CoP4) will convene in Rome to decide on the inclusion of endosulfan in Annex III.

The above groups point out that this represents an unprecedented opportunity to press the international community to impose greater safeguards on the sale and distribution of endosulfan.

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Federal Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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