03/06/2018, 15.46
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Farmers in Xiangkhouang poisoned by pesticides and herbicides in food

NGO finds contaminant residue in the blood of 96 per cent of residents from chemicals used in maize production. More than 100 metric tonnes were imported into Nonghad and Kham districts between 2004 and 2015. More than half of all local fruits and vegetables have been contaminated.

Vientiane (AsiaNews/RFA) – Most residents in Xiangkhouang province, northeastern Laos, likely have residue from pesticides or herbicides in their blood, officials reported recently, adding that more tests are needed to determine the level of contamination that has affected the public.

In January, the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (Luras) released a report in which preliminary tests show contaminant residue in the blood of 96 per cent of Xiangkhouang residents.

“We have sampled blood in the first stage through test-kits [in the field] to verify whether or not contamination exists,” said Soubin Phimmahthut, an official with the Ministry of Public Health Food and Drug Department. “But we still don’t know what level of residue is there, so we will need to undertake further tests in the lab.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, more than 100 metric tonnes of pesticides and herbicides – including Cypermethrin, Carbaryl, Glyphosate, Atrazine, Paraquat, and Metsulfuron – were imported into Xiangkhouang’s Nonghad and Kham districts alone between 2004 and 2015 as part of a bid to improve the commercial yield of the province’s 20,000 hectares of maize.

The chemical substances were mainly used in maize cultivation, and less applied for other crops, a Ministry expert said.

The Ministry recently tested 600 samples of fruits and vegetables from local farmers and markets throughout Xiangkhouang’s seven districts and found that more than half of them contained pesticides and herbicides.

“The reality is that the residue [in residents’ blood] comes from consumption—not from the use of pesticides and herbicides directly,” said Ianlang Phanthanivong, head of the crops division for Xiangkhouang’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

“The main factor is that people consume contaminated vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and other foods that are locally produced and distributed.”

In Laos, contamination from chemicals used in agriculture is a nationwide problem, which has forced the government to pass laws and regulations to limit the use of pesticides and herbicides.

In 2016, the Ministry of Public Health took blood samples from 700 students and teachers throughout the country and found that nearly half tested positive for residue from pesticides or herbicides at levels considered “unacceptable” or “dangerous.”

That same year, the Ministry took blood samples from 400 secondary students and teachers in the capital Vientiane and found that 58 per cent of those tested showed residue at the same levels.

The ministry said at the time that the use of pesticides and herbicides in the country had increased by around 200 per cent over the previous decade as local farmers worked to increase crop production to commercial levels.

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