Children patiently wait for the officials of the Department of Health to receive their flowers, their token of support to the agency, after it released its study recommending a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides as farmers exposed to aerial spraying hold a picket Tuesday, May 12, 2009 and call on the DOH to take concrete actions on the aerial spraying. (Photo by Brian Agrazamendez)
DAVAO CITY, Philippines - The impact of aerial spraying of pesticides compelled medical doctors under the Department of Health (DOH) to recommend the banning of aerial spraying method in the country, based on their study “Health and Environmental Assessment of Sitio Camocaan in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur”.
The DOH-commissioned study which was conducted in 2006 and presented in Davao City on Tuesday, said that “aerial spraying of pesticides should be stopped and a shift to organic farming techniques should be considered”.
This is one of the major calls of the researchers based on key findings such as 82 percent of respondents from Sitio Camocaan were indirectly exposed to aerially sprayed pesticides and 52 percent of whom experienced eye pain, eye tearing, headache, eye redness, eye itchiness, dizziness and skin itchiness which are consistent of acute effects of pesticides.
The study also found pesticide in the blood samples of community residents, which were not workers of the plantation. Pesticide was also found in the soil and air samples of Camocaan.
Moreover, the recommendation was also based on results that “unusual neurologic and dermatologic conditions were observed among the Camocaan group such as severe developmental delays, chloracne and cutaneous lupus erythematosus, thyroid gland disorders which are warning cases of long-term exposures to pesticides”.
“We are glad that finally, the aerial spraying issue is getting much deserved attention from the Department of Health. The people have suffered enough. The findings are a vindication that indeed these pesticides are designed to kill and there are many people from provinces outside Davao City with agribusiness banana plantations who are being poisoned by these chemicals,” said Cecilia Moran, a farmer from Dacudao, Davao City and president of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS).
Carina Cardinas, president of the members of the Digos City Working Women's Guild stated in her letter to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III that they fear the long-term effect of aerial spraying in their area.
Many of her members whose houses are located very near a banana plantation are already complaining of symptoms and sickness brought about by aerial spraying. (“Natatakot po kami sa pangmatagalang epekto nang palaging pagbuga ng lason dahil ngayon pa lang, kung ano-anu na ang mga nararamdaman at mga sakit ng mga tao.”) her letter to Duque reads.
Former plantation workers of the Lapanday Group of Companies under the GADECO Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (GARBAI) also share Cardinas' lament.
GARBAI Chairman Juanito Nava told Secretary Duque in a letter that many of them were struck with illness and died of undetermined cause. Until now, they continue to fear for their lives due to long term exposure to aerially sprayed pesticides. (“Marami rin sa aming mga kasamahan ang nagkasakit at namatay sa di malamang dahilan. Natatakot po kami sa pangmatagalang epekto nang palaging pagbuga ng lason dahil ngayon pa lang, kung ano-ano na ang mga nararamdaman at mga sakit ng mga tao.”)
Representing Davao del Norte province, Danilo Taghoy, an official of Taba village, also expressed alarm over complaints of coughing, dizziness, headache that they continually experience brought about by aerial spraying in their area. Taghoy and the others joined the Davao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) in a rally in front of the Regency Inn here where the DOH was to hold the study presentation.
Bringing flowers that symbolize their wish for a life free from poison spray, the farmers and environment advocates offered their presents to DOH and asked the agency to immediately act on the study recommendation to ban the toxic shower.
The study which was headed by principal investigator Dr. Allan Dionisio of the National Poison Management and Control Center was conducted in 2006 to document the health and environmental conditions existing in Sitio Camocaan, in response to complaints of residents which is adjacent to the Lapanday banana plantation where aerial spraying has been a practice for many years now.
The study compared two communities in terms of socio-economic and demographic profile which are Camocaan ang Baliwaga, also in Davao del Sur. In terms of distance, the difference is that Camocaan is adjacent to a banana plantation which aerial sprays pesticides while Baliwaga is 15 km. away from the nearest banana plantation but is 1.5 km. farther from two mango plantations.
Dr. Dionisio and his team also recommends an establishment of a health surveillance to detect chronic effects of pesticides which include a more detailed neurodevelopmental assessment of children, a follow up of previously diagnosed conditions, a screening for thyroid gland abnormalities and liver cancer, and periodic screening of biomarkers of pesticide exposure among residents.
They also called on concerned government agencies to review the guidelines for protecting communities from pesticide contamination from large plantations. (Angging Aban)