Millions of farmers in the developing world are being poisoned by pesticides that are banned in Europe, environmental campaigners claimed yesterday.
A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation found that the use of organophosphates and organochlorines in crop spraying in Asia, Africa and South America was exposing poorly paid workers to a far higher risk of developing cancers.
Mike Shanahan, author of What's Your Poison?, said: "Some pesticides are known to disrupt the body's immune, nervous and hormone systems. Poor people in developing countries routinely face unacceptably high risks of poisoning. The range of human health problems associated with such exposure is frightening."
The global study was launched after the foundation became alarmed at the levels of toxins used in Cambodia, where half of farmers said they allowed their children to spray crops. The group quoted evidence from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which estimated last year that there were 500,000 tons of obsolete pesticides worldwide, including 120,000 tons in Africa.
In 2001, the Ministry of Health in Brazil estimated that there were 300,000 poisonings and 5,000 deaths a year from agricultural pesticides. The cost to the economy was estimated at $40m (£26m).
Steve Trent, director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said: "The answer lies in reduced risk, reduced use and reduced reliance on pesticides. Consumers need to question the true cost of agricultural produce and governments need to do more to protect people from these devastating chemicals.''
* Spanish spinach bought at a British supermarket contained pesticide levels almost two and a half times the safe level for young children. The Pesticide Residues Committee, which carried out the tests, said that the spinach could have led to headaches and stomach upsets.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd