Farmers risking lives during pesticide spray: Experts

SRINAGAR: Pesticides or other chemicals used to kill insects and weeds may be causing more harm to the field workers as experts say safety measures are not followed by them. Besides, continuous exposure to these chemicals makes them susceptible to several ailments including cancer.
With pesticide spray in the Valley horticulture sector being carried out these days, experts say a majority of field workers do not adhere to recommended safety measures. Dr Farah, Assistant Professor at the SKUAST Extension wing here, told Kashmir Reader that for any pesticide spray, a field worker has to protect himself by covering almost his entire body with safety gear, but workers here do not bother to put in place a mask or use gloves.
Farah feels that farmers today are producing crops at the cost of their lives, even risking the lives of their families as well as others. She said that different pesticides, fungicides or any other farm chemicals carry information about the toxicity level that is also symbolically depicted on the packs, but farmers here seem less bothered about their well-being.
Adding that, on occasion, farmers increase their dermal exposure as they even use bare hands to mix pesticides, Farah warned that continued exposure to these chemicals (beyond 12 hours) is not recommended. But farmers here engage in this activity for weeks together. She said that research has pointed to the fact that several health ailments are now linked to these high chemical exposures.
Professor and HOD Radiation Oncology at SKIMS, Dr Muhammad Maqbool Lone said that there are several short term health hazards for such workers. Studies have proved that such field workers who were exposed to pesticides got more brain tumors.
He said that any worker engaged in such activity should protect his respiratory system and cover the skin as exposure to these chemicals at times leads to allergies. Farah cautioned that the amount of pesticides being used is also harmful for the environment. She said that leftover pesticides and packages are not discarded properly, thus threatening the environment.
Workers, according to her, mostly drench their crops with loads of pesticides and never care about safety before disposing the leftover pesticide or their packages. She added that leftover chemicals and their packages need to be crushed and buried at secure places along with washing soda that diminishes their toxicity.