Shri Srikant Jena
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Government of India
Date: July 22, 2013
Subject- Urgent need for safety from hazardous chemicals, inventory of hazardous chemicals
I wish to draw your attention towards the insecticide that was responsible for the Mid Day Meal tragedy on July 16, 2013 at the Dharma Sati Primary School, Mashrak, Chapra in Saran district, Bihar and the failure of your ministry to ensure safety of Indians from hazardous chemicals.
I submit that your ministry which is the focal point for issues related to unprecedented tragedy caused by Union Carbide Corporation should intervene to ensure safety of Indians from hazardous chemicals in the wake of recent chemical insecticide tragedy in Bihar.
I submit that monocrotophos, an insecticide has been detected in the probe by the Bihar Government’s agency. This insecticide is also manufactured Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL), which is under your ministry. Other manufacturers of monocrotophos include Hindustan Ciba Geigy Ltd, Bharat Pulverizing Mills Ltd., Lupin, National Organic Chemical Industries Ltd, Sudarshan and United Phosphorus. Their stringent regulation merits your urgent attention.
I submit that HIL should be asked to prepare an inventory of hazardous chemical insecticides which it manufactures and recall all the containers which is used for distribution.
I submit that this issue is directly related to absence of inventory of hazardous chemicals in the country. The widespread availability of hazardous chemicals, chemical insecticides and absence of method to deal with obsolete insecticides and their containers which are contaminated with insecticides has remained off the radar so far.
I submit that your ministry should set a high powered committee to set up systems and processes to ensure safety from hazardous chemicals.
I submit that Organophosphorous, a chemical used as an insecticide has been identified and found to be responsible for deaths and diseases of school children. Organophosphate-containing insecticides parathion, monocrotophos, malathion, methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, phosmet, fenitrothion, tetrachlorvinphos, azamethiphos, and azinphos methyl.
I submit that according to International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), WHO which works to establish the scientific basis for the sound management of chemicals, the ingestion of 120 mg monocrotophos can be fatal. (Reference: IPCS, 1993).
I submit that monocrotophos is used for control of a broad spectrum of pests including sucking, chewing and boring insects and spider mites on cotton, paddy, sugarcane, vegetables, ground nut, soya bean, tea, coffee etc.
As per WHO classification based on oral toxicity, monocrotophos is highly hazardous. WHO recommends that for the health and welfare of workers and the general population, the handling and application of monocrotophos should be entrusted only to competently supervised and well-trained applicators, who must follow adequate safety measures and use the chemical according to good application practices. It is clear that these recommendations have not been internalized by regulatory agencies in India.
I submit that all waste and contaminated material associated with this chemical should be considered hazardous waste, according to FAO Guidelines on Prevention of Accumulation of Obsolete Pesticide Stocks and The Pesticide Storage and Stock Control Manual.
I submit that your agencies too should be involved in the probe to identify the name of the Organophosphate insecticide involved and its manufacturer. The responsibility and liability of this manufacturer must be fixed. The probe must recommend take back policy so that these manufacturers have an Extended Producers Responsibility with regard to its residual insecticides and their containers.
I submit that most home uses of organophosphorus insecticides have been phased out in countries like USA. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists the organophosphate parathion as a possible human carcinogen. The World Health Organization, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and several environmental organisations have sought a general and global ban on it. Its use is banned or restricted in 23 countries and its import is illegal in a total of 50 countries. Its use was banned in the U.S. in 2000 and it has not been used since 2003. The usage of such insecticides continues to be used because of the political patronage enjoyed by the manufacturers of these insecticides.
I submit that your ministry should initiate efforts to recall Organophosphorus chemical pesticides, which is responsible for about 200,000 deaths annually. Organophosphorus pesticides cause poisoning by inhibiting release of enzymes.
I submit that your ministry has done nothing to save people poisoning caused by hazardous chemicals although this is an important aspect related to human health.”
I submit that consumption of chemical pesticides in Bihar is matter of serious concern because the state has the potential to be a leader in natural organic farming. As per information available with Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee projected demand of chemical pesticides for the year 2010-11 was 1084 MT in Bihar. This included 530 MT and 554 MT Kharif and Rabi crops respectively. The consumption of chemicals pesticides was 828 MT for the year 2009-10 inclusive of 374 MT for Kahrif and 454 Rabi crops. Consumption of pesticides in Bihar was 850 MT during 2004-05.
I submit that there are 5525 sale points for distribution of pesticides in Bihar as on August 1, 2010. These distributors should be made to take back the contaminated containers and the residual insecticides.
I submit that lessons from the insecticides tragedy in Bihar should not be forgotten. It creates a compelling logic for proper management of pre-existing insecticides, their containers and to initiate steps to phase out organophosphates.
In view of the above facts and the recent insecticide tragedy, I wish to seek your urgent intervention to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated in future.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
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