Letters

Improper use of insecticides can be fatal

Dear Editor:
A new study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, links deaths of Bangladeshi children to chemicals sprayed on lychee. “Excessive and improper” applications of insecticides and other agriculture chemicals in lychee fruit orchards “may have triggered an outbreak of a deadly swelling of the brain known as acute encephalitis syndrome (AES)” that killed those children, according to the study published online.
All of the deaths, which occurred within 20 hours of the onset of symptoms, were linked to exposure to lychee. The study also pointed to a 2015 outbreak in the same Dinajpur region that involved 12 recorded hospitalisations and 11 deaths as further evidence that the 2012 outbreak is likely associated with the use of toxic chemicals in the area.
An average of about 200,000 people die from the toxic exposure of pesticides per year across the world, the United Nations says, calling for tougher global regulation of substances.
Analytical testing has linked a rise in sudden deaths of children in Bangladesh to chemicals sprayed onto local fruit trees. One of the potent insecticides used is banned in 80 other countries. The researchers report that each of the death happened with 20 hours of the symptoms appearing. Laboratory testing reveals the children eat the fruit lychee, in the Dinajpur District in northern Bangladesh. It lists an array of serious illnesses and health issues with suspected links to pesticides, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, hormone disruption, birth defects, sterility, and neurological effects.
The chemical spraying appears connected to the deaths of 13 children in a rural Bangladesh. The incident occurred during harvest time back in 2012; the results of the case have been published in July 2017. Acute encephalitis syndrome leads to headache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, and fatigue. It can also be associated with seizures or convulsions, tremors, hallucinations, stroke, and memory problems; and sometimes death. There are various causes, from bacterial to viral, as well as chemical.
Any substance or mixture of substances that are meant to control pests—-such as herbicide, insecticide, termiticide, piscicide, rodenticide, insect repellent, fungicide etc—-are pesticides According to the FAO, any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals can be identified as pesticide.
A pesticide is a chemical or biological agent (such as a virus, bacterium, antimicrobial, or disinfectant) that deters, incapacitates, kills, or otherwise discourages pests. Pesticides are used to control organisms that are considered to be harmful. For example, they are used to kill mosquitoes that can transmit potentially deadly diseases like West Nile virus, yellow fever, and malaria. They can also kill bees, wasps or ants that can cause allergic reactions. Insecticides can protect animals from illnesses that can be caused by parasites such as fleas.
People are more likely to suffer ill effects through inhalation of the vapor. At low levels, it is irritating to the eyes and nose and can cause headaches. At higher levels, inhalation can lead to bronchitis and accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Contact with the skin may cause irritation or dermatitis. Eye contact with dilute solutions causes irritation, but higher concentrations may damage the cornea and cause loss of vision.
It is good to know that the use of the fatal chemical has been controlled. Now we hope that the improper use of insecticides will be stopped.
A M K Chowdhury
Narayanganj

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