Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2022. 9:45 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: A recent study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the University of Belize (UB) shows that the number of Belizean farmers affected by pesticide poisoning has gone up in recent years, a fact which authorities are actively working on addressing.
Over 80 stakeholders from the FAO, UB, the Pesticides Control Board, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), gathered for a virtual workshop at the end of February to discuss the findings of the study. The study collected data from among 150 farmers and farm workers from all six districts in Belize.
The study found that farmers and farm workers encountered several health problems with varying levels of severity due to pesticide exposure. Their symptoms were the result of the toxicity, improper mixing, and application of pesticides. These led in many cases to skin irritations, itching, burns and headaches. Some victims were found to have more severe symptoms.
“Exposure to chemicals was mainly the result of inadequate use, negligence or availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Most persons affected by pesticides sought to self-medicate (even when the symptoms were severe) while very few others visited hospitals and clinics for professional medical attention,” the FAO said in a statement following the workshop.
Several recommendations were made to address incidents of pesticide poisoning which the survey says was particularly higher in 2021. The recommendations included a review of the pesticides and their active ingredients identified by the survey as being a health problem, and addressing the knowledge, attitudes, and pesticide practices of farmers, farmworkers, and their employers.
Miriam Ochaeta-Serrut, Registrar for the Pesticides Control Board, highlighted that “these recommendations, supported by the data from the study, were essential in influencing policies in the country on pesticide management”. She added that the “restricting of certain pesticides and training on their use required additional regulatory action, more research to inform policy, increased industry stewardship, improved user responsibility, and overall behavioral change among pesticide users in Belize”.
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