Bangladesh, India (Pontiac) — A recent study published by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene spells trouble for the international pesticide industry. The study linked the deaths of over 120 Bangladeshi children in lychee fruit orchards to the pesticide endosulfan. The findings differ from initial explanations for the deaths, and raises questions for spraying elsewhere.
It began in 2012, when 14 children were admitted to the Dinajpur Medical College hospital for severe encephalitis, Dhaka Tribune reports. Simply put, that’s inflammation or swelling of the brain to you and me. Within a day, 13 of the 14 were dead after eating unwashed, contaminated fruit. Again in 2014, a much larger group of 125 children working in lychees orchards died of the same brain damage-related phenomena.
According to Dhaka Tribune, one study in collaboration with the US attempted to link the deaths to the fruits themselves. It stated that naturally occurring lychees toxins, coupled with malnutrition, was responsible for the deaths.
However, this most recent study found that the deaths were likely due to exposure to multiple pesticides. Among them was endosulfan which, Daily Star reports, has been banned in over 80 countries. Despite being banned in the European Union since 2005, it took America another 11 years to do the same. Due to these latest findings, the credibility of the older study and it’s authors is also in question.
One of the newest study’s head’s, M. Saiful Islam–associate scientist at the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research–noted that had the fruits themselves caused the deaths, more would’ve died across India. Rather, the fatalities were confined to orchards where children played and worked. The story’s not unlike that of American workers quickly sickened from exposure to a pesticide which almost didn’t meet government approval.
Due to the numerous deaths, Indian government officials are creating facilities to rehabilitate those affected by endosulfan. According to The Hindu, further surveys will be done in area’s not included in prior investigations. Particular attention is being placed to properly identifying the afflicted, usually bed-confined following exposure. The exact logistics and funding for the rehabilitation center project is still being pulled together.
Tying everything together is the fragile reality of global pesticide regulation and use. One of the biggest criticisms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), for example, were fears that unregulated products would run rampant. Contaminated or rotting meat, spoiled fruits, anything that wouldn’t meet American or European standards.
Trump partly campaigned on attention to trade agreements and their consequences as an edge over a globalist opponent. Appealing to blue collar, white working America, the then-candidate boisterously condemned trade agreements like TTP. As an “experienced business man”, Trump ensured supporters he’d negotiate the country through these deals. None of them were good, he claimed, and put America in the backseat. And whereas much of this rhetoric was for votes, agreements like TTP did and do pose significant food quality concerns. If countries known for contaminated food send product to America, then guess what could follow.
What happened in Bangladesh demonstrates the realities of unchecked exposure to powerful chemicals. As used to pesticide spraying as Americans are becoming, the fact remains that health concerns abound. The deaths of over 100 children from pesticide exposure is a twin sided blade. Affecting both trade with India, and reassurances that damage isn’t being done at home.
This article was prepared by Isiah Holmes for The Pontiac Tribune.