Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Pesticide Education

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 14: Pesticides Are Poison > Pesticide Education


If everyone stopped using pesticides tomorrow, we could end the epidemic of pesticide poisonings and begin to restore our land, air, and water to health. Educating ourselves and our communities about the harm pesticides cause, and learning how to grow food without chemicals, can help make this happen. A first step might be to bring people together in your village, town, or neighborhood to talk about their experience with pesticides.

Once people are gathered, decide what things are most important to your community. Is it personal health? Is it water pollution from pesticides? Is it the cost of pesticides? After there is some understanding of the problems, the next step will be to decide on a goal or goals. Maybe people will want to organize pesticide safety trainings, or learn how to farm without pesticides.

People sitting together and talking.
We know pesticides are dangerous. But we still use them every day. What can we do?
We can just refuse to use pesticides!
Then we would lose our jobs! I need to feed my children.
We should learn more about how pesticides hurt us and try to come up with some solutions together.
Farmers organize to stay independent
A man holding a sign.
Down with Monsanto

A group of farmers in Bangladesh started a program to talk about the pesticides they used and who they bought them from. Their goals were to use pesticides safely and to save money on their farms.

They found out their local bank was working with the large agribusiness corporation Monsanto. The bank and the company had made an agreement that loans could be used only to buy products from Monsanto. This forced farmers to use pesticides and seeds made by Monsanto, and did not allow them to take out loans to buy other things, such as farm animals or organic seeds.

When these farmers found out about the partnership between Monsanto and the bank, they began to organize and speak to many other farmers.

The farmers protested at the bank and refused to take out new loans. After many protests, the bank stopped working with Monsanto.


Drawing pesticide solutions

Time: 2 to 3 hours

Materials: drawing paper, colored pens or pencils, tacks or tape

If people already know that pesticides are harmful, this activity can help them think of solutions. It is helpful to have a person lead the activity.

  1. Talk about pesticide problems
    Illustration of the below: A hand drawing pictures.

    Discuss the common ways people in the community come into contact with pesticides.

  2. Draw pesticide problems

    Each person draws a picture of 1 way people are exposed to pesticides. These pictures are then taped or tacked to a wall. The group then looks at the drawings and decides on the 3 to 5 most common problems. Next, the group begins to talk about what might cause these problems. What makes these exposures to pesticides so common? Why are they so difficult to prevent?

  3. Outside homes where walls are posted with pictures and signs reading "Problems" and "Solutions," women and men sit together and discuss.
  4. Draw solutions

    In groups, people discuss possible solutions and draw pictures of their ideas. For example, if the problem is exposure from leaking backpack sprayers, short-term solutions include fixing the leaks and wearing protective clothing. Long-term solutions might include buying new equipment or changing to organic farming. A group might draw any or all of these solutions. Often a solution will solve more than one problem.

    Tape or tack the solution drawings to another wall.

  5. Talk about solutions

    Talk about the different solutions people drew. Which solutions can be achieved soon? Which solutions will take longer to achieve? The drawings can be rearranged so the most practical short-term solutions are at the top. Have people talk about how to achieve these solutions and work toward the longer term solutions too. Discuss what the group can do to make these solutions happen.

How to read and understand pesticide labels

An important part of pesticide education is helping people understand pesticide labels. All workers have the right to know what chemicals they are exposed to, what the risks are, and what protection they need. Pesticide packages are supposed to have labels so that people know how to use them safely and correctly. These labels tell what poison is being used, how to mix and measure it, how to treat poisoning, how toxic the pesticide is, and how long to wait after using it before entering fields. Many pesticide labels are hard to read. They may use language that is hard to understand. Or they may not be printed in your local language. Since most field‑workers do not even know what pesticides they are using, labels often do little to promote the safe use of pesticides.

A man holding a pesticide container speaks with a woman.
Why are pesticide labels so hard to understand?
Would you buy it if the label said "this is poison! Use it wrong and it will kill you"..?

Here is an example of a pesticide label. Other labels may look different, but they should have the same kinds of information. Remember, even if you follow the instructions perfectly pesticides can still harm you and your environment.

NO PEST - ABC ChemCorp - INSECTICIDE

RESTRICTED USE PESTICIDE
For retail sale only to and application only by certified applicators or persons under their direct supervision, and only for those uses covered by the Certified Applicator's certification
Reg. No. M7485
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

deltathion (1,2 phospho-(5)-4 chloromethane)
..........................................................50%
INERT INGREDIENTS......................50%
TOTAL.............................................100%
KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN
PELIGRO
DANGER
POISON
PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS
Wear long-sleeved clothing, full length trousers, eye protection, and protective gloves when handling. Wash hands and face before eating or using tobacco. Bathe at the end of the work day, washing entire body and hair with soap and water. Change clothing daily. Wash contaminated clothing thoroughly before reusing.
STATEMENT OF PRACTICAL TREATMENT
Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals
If Swallowed:Do not induce vomiting. Contains aromatic petroleum solvent. Call a physician or poison control center immediately. If in Eyes:Flush with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention. If on Skin:Wash with plenty of soap and water. Get medical attention if irritation persists. If Inhaled: Remove to fresh air immediately. Get medical attention.
NOTE TO PHYSICIANS: "No Pest" is a cholinesterase inhibitor. Treat symptomatically. If exposed, plasma and red blood cell cholinesterase tests may indicate significant exposure (baseline data are useful). Atropine, only by injection, is the preferable antidote.
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
This product is extremely toxic to fish and wildlife. Do not apply directly to water or wetlands(swamps, bogs, marshes and potholes). Do not contaminate water by cleaning of equipment or disposal of wastes.
REENTRY STATEMENTS
Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval (REI) of 12 hours. Written or oral warnings must be given to workers who are expected to go into a treated area.
DIRECTIONS FOR USE
Use specified dosage of NO PEST according to crop type described on table. Add 1/2 the amount of water indicated on table to the spray tank and begin agitation. Add the required amount of NO PEST to the spray mix. Add the remainder of the water and continue agitation until all solution has been applied.
STORAGE AND DISPOSAL
Store in original container only. Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. In case of spill or leakage, soak up with absorbent material such as sand, sawdust, earth, etc. Dispose of with chemical waste.

For container disposal, triple rinse and add rinsate to spray tank, then puncture and dispose of according to local authorities.


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