India activists face jail for publicizing endosulfan risks

Early this week I let readers know about a petition that NRDC filed to have endosulfan banned in the US. In our petition, we listed many of the environmental and human health hazards associated with this persistent, bioaccumulative toxic pesticide. That evening we all went home to a warm dinner and a restful sleep. Not so for members of Toxic Links, a non-profit in India that  issued a report in 2001 on the health hazards of endosulfan used on cotton fields of India.

In 2006 the pesticides industry under the name of Crop Care filed a criminal case for defamation, claiming that Toxic Links' report, The Killing Fields of Warangal, had caused them harm. Although no companies were named, it documented over 500 deaths among pestide-exposed farmers in the cotton fields of Warangal, India where endosulfan is common. Toxics Links lost their legal battle to have the case quashed. Instead, the case went to a district court but Toxics Links was not notified of the hearing earlier this month and would have faced possible arrest for failing to appear, had they not acted quickly to have the arrest warrants withdrawn.  

Acording to a February 14 news story in The Hindu, India's National Newspaper, a spokesman for the Endosulfan Manufacturers and Formulators association said the activities of Toxics Links had a negative impact on the manufacture of agrochemicals. 

The Killing Fields of Warangal also made news in the British Medical Journal in August 2002. That article noted that an analysis by the Indian non-profit Center for Science and Environment found concentrations of endosulfan in foods at up to 200 parts per million (ppm), and at over 100 ppm in people's blood in the Kerala district of India. For reference, the Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the manufacturer identifies a workplace inhalation exposure limit of no more than 15 ppm in air for 15 minutes, or no more than 10 ppm in air over an 8-hour workday.

India's pesticide industry is the fourth largest in the world, and the largest producer of endosulfan.

Please comment below and let our brothers and sisters in India and worldwide know that we are working together to block corporate efforts to poison our land and our bodies with their toxic products. Ravi Agarwal, founder and managing trustee of New Delhi based Toxic Links, and his colleagues, Madhumita Dutta and Rajesh Rangarajan have a long battle ahead of them, but they will not stand alone!

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program

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