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Order halt to aerial spraying, DA urged

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:44:00 11/08/2009

Filed Under: Health, Environmental Issues

DAVAO CITY, Philippines?The Department of Health (DOH) urged the Department of Agriculture to stop the aerial spraying of chemicals practiced by banana plantations in Mindanao ?until proof of its safety is clearly established by the industry.?

The recommendation that was contained in a resolution signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was based on the ?precautionary principle espoused by the Rio Declaration, of which the Philippines is a signatory.? The resolution was also signed by seven members of the DOH executive committee.

?Aerial spraying has been banned in certain countries because of concerns on drift and its potential health effects. As a rule, countries have implemented the precautionary principle approach to minimize hazards and risks to health and the environment,? said the DOH resolution.

The resolution, released to the media last week, came after the executive committee of the DOH met on Oct. 24, when they also approved and adopted the results of the study conducted in 2006 by the DOH, the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology Inc. and the National Poison Control and Management Center of the University of the Philippines.

The said study was conducted in Barangay Camocaan in Guihing town, Davao del Sur. It established that the diseases of people living inside and around banana plantations were caused by the chemicals sprayed aerially, the drift of which has reached them.

The DOH has recognized that the fungicides mancozeb and chlorothalonil which are sprayed aerially ?caused acute health effects and chronic effects to workers and communities living near plantations.?

The department also stressed that the pesticide drift that reaches residential areas and schools near plantations expose people to the ?considerable risks to the effect of the drift.?

Studies indicate that the pesticide drift in aerial spraying reaches more than three kilometers. The DOH said that ?based on studies, drift is greatest from aerial application where almost 40 percent of the chemicals is lost to drift.?

The recommendations of the 2006 study adopted by the DOH are:

*The (banana) industry establishes a health surveillance system to detect effects of chronic pesticide exposure in communities adjacent to the banana and other agricultural plantations. Include more detailed neurodevelopmental assessment of children, follow up of previously diagnosed conditions, screening for sentinel conditions, periodic screening of biomarkers and allocate the necessary funds. The DOH as regulatory agency will validate findings.

* Based on the Philippine Environmental Impact System (PD 1586), the industry shall perform systematic and periodic monitoring of pesticide residues and metabolites in the environment of communities adjacent to banana and other agricultural plantations and do remediation where necessary. The responsible agencies shall provide oversight function.

* The government and industry should develop and strengthen guidelines for protecting communities from pesticide contamination in plantations.

* Acute and chronic pesticide exposures can result in harm to both health and the environment; hence, a shift to organic farming techniques should be considered. Jeffrey M. Tupas, Mindanao Bureau

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