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Govt's Opposition to Ban on Endosulfan Unfortunate: K.C. VENUGOPAL

Written By krishna on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 1:57 AM

Re: Need to ban the production and use of Endosulfan, a pesticide affecting human health in the country

SHRI K.C. VENUGOPAL (ALAPPUZHA): Endosulfan is a deadly pesticide which is produced and used in India. But seventy-three countries have phased out or banned this insecticide and many other countries are on the way to ban it. But it is unfortunate that India opposed the ban citing economic losses at the sixth meeting of Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention.

Kerala is a largely affected state by use of Endosulfan as it is causing distress among people of Kasargod district as this pesticide is being used in the Government owned plantations through aerial spraying. A large number of natives of Kasargod and southern bordering parts of Karnataka are severely affected by physical deformities, disorders of the central nervous system, psychiatric problems, mental retardation, cerebral and genetically abnormalities and cancer due to Endosulfan.

The appointment of a new head of a six member central team to study the environmental problems created by Endosulfan gave favourable report on Endosulfan earlier which invited wide criticism. In 2004, a committee headed by the same person recommended to continue the use of Endosulfan after re-analyzing the report by O. P. Dubey Committee. He submitted the report underlining the opinion of Dubey Committee and the pesticide company representatives. Dubey Committee also submitted a favourable report for using the pesticide.

Now, the public outrage is high, but the Government has appointed the same person to re-analyze the problem. So, I request the Government that the appointment may be re-examined and instead a new committee may be appointed which will be capable to enquire facts without any injustice.

I also, request the Government that this deadly pesticide should be banned with immediate effect as it is a chlorinated insecticide that is chemically similar to DDT which was banned nearly 40 years ago and negatively affected environment, human beings and wildlife.

Note on Endosulfan

Endosulfan is a deadly insecticide banned in over 68 countries. Health effects from endosulfan include birth defects and mental retardations. It has a smell like turpentine. Endosulfan is a broad spectrum,
non-systemic organochlorine insecticide. It is used to control a number of insects on food crops such as grains, tea, fruits, and vegetables and on non-food crops such as tobacco and cotton. It is also used as a wood preservative.

Endosulfan applied to crops usually breaks down in a few weeks, but Endosulfan preferentially binds to soil particles and may take years to completely break down.

Like other POPs chemicals, Endosulfan does not dissolve easily in water and will preferentially bind to aquatic sediments. Similar to other POPs chemicals,Endosulfan will bioaccumulate into the tissues of animals living in endosulfan-contaminated water.

Other POPs include endrin, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene, chlordecone, pentachlorobenzene and perfluorooctane sulfonates (PFOS).

India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of endosulfan. The insecticide is one of 5 most commonly used insecticides in the world.

Kerala government banned it in 2002. It was banned following a scientific report by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH). The report showed that hundreds of people in Padre village of Kasaragod district, Kerala suffered from fatal diseases because of aerial spraying over cashew plantations during the 1970s- 1990s. Rising incidence of congenital anomalies, delayed puberty, mental retardation, abortions and cancer was noticed by local medical practitioners.

In the period from 1998 and 2002, health and toxicological studies in Kasaragod established neuro-behavioural disorders, congenital malformations in girls, abnormalities of reproductive tract in males
and increased rate of cancers.

Kerala government set up an Endosulfan Victims Relief and Remediation Cell in 2007. In the bordering state of Karnataka too endosulfan induced health crisis compelled Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to
announce a compensation of Rs 50,000 to each victim in February 2010.

India has been exporting endosulfan to over 70 countries especially in the last 5 years.
Endosulfan was developed in the 1950s and won Hoechst AG (now Bayer CropScience) approval of USDA's for endosulfan in the US.

In the year 2000, in US home and garden uses of this insecticide was terminated by USEPA. In 2007, Canada announced that endosulfan is under consideration for phase-out and Bayer CropScience voluntarily pulls its endosulfan products from the US market. Endosulfan is acutely neurotoxic to both insects and mammals, including humans. The US EPA classifies it as Category I "Highly Acutely Toxic".

It is a known endocrine disruptor. The endocrine hormone system plays a key role in growth and sexual development. It consists of the endocrine glands, including the testicles, the ovaries, the thyroid,
the pancreatic and adrenal glands, the parathyroids and the pituitary gland (which controls the other endocrine glands). These glands secrete substances known as hormones, which are chemical messengers released directly into the bloodstream, where they travel to and stimulate other organs (or receptors). The pancreas, the thyroid, the parathyroids and the pituitary secrete protein hormones; the adrenal glands and the gonads secrete steroid hormones.

Hormones are crucial to morphology, metabolism, blood circulation and the nervous system (which itself affects hormone secretion), and thus help maintain the individual’s physiological balance.

When hormone secretion is disrupted, a physiological imbalance occurs that can lead to such problems as obesity, diabetes and decalcification of the bones. The natural or artificial substances that may cause this imbalance are described as endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are divided into three categories:

Mimics – These disruptors are perceived by the body as genuine hormones because they elicit the same chemical reactions as natural hormones.

Blockers – These disruptors, by blocking the cell receptors, prevent naturally occurring hormones from affecting cells in the usual way.

Triggers – These disruptors elicit unusual or abnormal reactions in cells.

If one looks at the development of a child from an embryonic stage to birth, the entire process is regulated by specific chemical messengers that are programmed to be released at one point and taken up at
another in precise concentrations and at specific times. If a chemical interferes with these messengers, irreversible damage can result at some stage. The effects may include changes in the development and
function of the reproductive system, which in turn produces abnormalities, including deformities.

The effects of endocrine disruptors are not limited to male or female sex hormones; they also affect other endocrine glands that play a role in growth, development and reproduction.

It has potential to disrupt hormones and have reproductive and developmental toxicity among males in particular. Endosulfan is a very persistent chemical which may stay in the environment for lengthy periods of time, particularly in acid media and has relatively high potential to bioaccumulate in fish.

Endosulfan can travel long distances from where it is used.

In 2009, the committee of scientific experts of the Stockholm Convention on POPs concluded that "endosulfan is likely, as a result of long range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse
human health and environmental effects such that global action is warranted."

The most likely way for people to be exposed is by eating food contaminated with Endosulfan. Endosulfan has been found in some food products such as oils, fats, and fruit and vegetable products. People
have also been exposed to low levels of Endosulfan by skin contact with contaminated soil or by smoking cigarettes made from tobacco that has Endosulfan residues on it. Well water and public water supplies
are not likely sources of exposure to Endosulfan. Workers can breathe in the chemical when spraying the pesticide on crops. Exposure can occur by breathing the dust or via contact with skin. Accidental
spills and releases to the environment at hazardous waste disposal sites are also possible sources of exposure to endosulfan. The most likely exposure to Endosulfan for people living near hazardous waste sites is through contact with soils containing it.

Endosulfan affects the central nervous system, preventing normal function. Hyperactivity, nausea, dizziness, headache, or convulsions have been observed in adults exposed to high doses. Severe poisoning may result in death.

Studies of the effects of Endosulfan on animals suggest that long-term exposure to Endosulfan can also damage the kidneys, testes, and liver and may possibly affect the body's ability to fight infection.
However, it is not known if these effects also occur in humans. It is unknown whether Endosulfan can cause cancer in humans. Studies in animals have provided inconclusive results.

Gopal Krishna
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