Paraquat: Unacceptable health risks for users

Zurich, 08.12.2005 - For December 10, the «International Human Rights Day», the Pesticide Action Network and the Berne Declaration are publishing a report that highlights once more the unacceptable effects of paraquat. To stop the continuous poisoning of countless workers and farmers we demand that Syngenta, the main producer of the herbicide, stops production and takes the product off the market. Governments are urged to ban paraquat at the national level.

Trade Unions and NGOs have been calling for a worldwide ban on paraquat for many years. Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemical corporation, insists that paraquat, correctly used, does not constitute a risk for users. The new report, however, leaves no doubt that paraquat cannot be used safely, especially in developing countries. Workers applying pesticides in these countries cannot afford protective equipment, and it is not feasible to wear protection in hot climates. Furthermore there is a real lack of information, and few workers are trained.

«As the report notes, there is more than enough evidence to show that the use of paraquat cannot continue as it infringes on the basic human rights of agricultural workers and farmers to safe health and a safe working environment», states PAN AP Executive Director, Sarojeni. V. Rengam.
«Syngenta continues to market a highly toxic herbicide to countries where users will invariably put themselves at risk. The company should therefore be held accountable for the countless cases of poisoning that it causes,» says François Meienberg from the Berne Declaration in Switzerland.

The report quotes studies that specifically confirm the high number of victims. In several countries (Costa Rica or South Korea) paraquat is the leading cause of pesticide-related poisonings. The toxic effects include eye injury, nosebleed, irritation and burns of the skin. In cases of acute paraquat poisoning, breathing difficulties may develop and death can occur up to several weeks after absorption. Paraquat damages the lungs, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, central nervous system, liver, muscles and spleen, causing multi-organ failure. Some chronic effects have been identified: an association with developmental and reproductive effects, as well as links to skin cancer and there is mounting evidence linking it to Parkinson’s disease. There is no antidote. «There is no reason why more people should become victims of paraquat poisoning. Companies should invest in less dangerous strategies for weed control, as consumers increasingly indicate they want assurance the food they eat has been fairly produced and traded.», declared Barbara Dinham of PAN UK.

To download the new report «Paraquat: unacceptable health risks for users» and for more information about paraquat and the campaign for a worldwide paraquat ban visit the campaign's website.