Cambodia bans endosulfan

Cambodia is the latest nation to recognise the perils of endosulfan and curb its usage. In view of the environmental damage caused by the organochlorine pesticide in several countries, the Cambodian health minister sought to prohibit its use. The ministry of agriculture, too, lost no time in giving its consent.

Environmentalists have welcomed Cambodia's timely ban on the pesticide. "We applaud the steps taken by the government to address the threat posed by endosulfan, and hope that other countries will follow suit,' says Steve Trent, director, Environmental Justice Foundation, a UK-based body that addresses environmental and human rights problems in developing countries.

Bans on specific chemicals by countries not only help safeguard health and the environment domestically, but can have an impact worldwide. This can be achieved through mechanisms of the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The pesticide has caused accidental deaths in Colombia, Cuba, Benin, India, Malaysia, Sudan, the Philippines, the US and, most recently, South Africa.

The US Environmental Protection Agency categorises endosulfan as "highly hazardous'. Currently, it is banned in Germany, Sweden, Colombia, Kerala in India, Belize, Singapore, Tonga, Syria and in the Brazilian state of Rondonia as well as in the Netherlands and the UK. Aerial spraying of endosulfan onto cashew nut plantations in Kerala has been linked to hundreds of cases of birth defects, psychiatric illness, cancers, menstrual disorders, and reproductive and nervous system diseases amongst exposed villagers (see: "Omnipresent poison", February 28, 2001).

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