HEALTH: Indian children exposed to pesticides lose memory, math skills
Indian children living in villages who are exposed to dangerously high levels of pesticides have poor memories and impaired analytical and motor skills, environmental group Greenpeace warned.
Greenpeace drew these conclusions after studying the impact of pesticide on 898 children between the ages of four and five and nine and 13 in 18 villages in six different states.
“The 898 children from diverse backgrounds who constituted our random sample did not have anything in common except that they were exposed to pesticides,” Kavitha Kuruganti, principal investigator of the Greenpeace study, told AFP.
“Many of them were unable to perform even simple play-based exercises like catching a ball or assembling a jigsaw puzzle,” she added.
The study also showed that children in a control group not exposed to pesticides performed 80 percent better than children exposed to the chemicals.
“There was some degree of variation in the mental disorder among the children in the sample group but the difference was insignificant,” said Greenpeace campaigner Divya Raghunandan.
“However, between the control group and pesticide-exposed group, the difference in the children’s mental capabilities was stark.”
Greenpeace surveyed children from India’s six cotton-cultivating states of Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra and Gujarat.
“We selected children from the hotspots of pesticide usage. Generally, in cotton-cultivating areas, pesticides are used most indiscriminately,” said Raghunandan.
According to her, on average farmers in the northern breadbasket state of Punjab spray their cotton and wheat crops 15 to 30 times a day.
“The extent of the use of pesticide is really very high in India. Farmers do no just use one pesticide but several to protect their crops which is very hazardous,” said Raghunandan.
India is the largest producer of pesticides in Asia and ranks as the 12th largest in the world. It produces 90,000 tonnes of pesticides annually.
Environmental groups have warned such widespread use of pesticides has not only contaminated food but even ground water in India.
“We will use this study to fight the fertiliser and pesticides industry at two levels,” said Raghunandan.
“On one hand, confront them with their liabilities. On the other hand, motivate farmers throughout the country to reject pesticides and declare themselves organic.”
So far, only the northeastern states of Sikkim and Mizoram have taken to organic cultivation and given up fertilisers, said Greenpeace. —AFP