Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) calls for action to address the ill impacts of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) on women and children’s health and well-being. PAN AP will hold the No Pesticide Use Week (NPUW) campaign on Women, Children and Highly Hazardous Pesticides from December 3 to 10, 2011, which is the World Human Rights Day to highlight the dangers of HHPs and work towards their elimination. HHPs have high potential to cause illness, injury or death to humans and animals or damage to the environment. These include pesticides that are acutely toxic or for which there is evidence of carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, neurological or developmental toxicity.
Pesticide Exposure Violates the Rights of Women and Children
The link between pesticide exposure on women and reproductive problems, including birth defects, infertility, spontaneous abortion and stillbirths, endometriosis is well established. Many pesticides can cross the placenta and act on the embryo during its most vulnerable period of development. The foetus and small child are especially vulnerable as the developing brain, the endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems are extremely susceptible to disruption from minute amounts of chemicals, resulting in effects that are often permanent.
Exposing people to toxic chemicals that can cause adverse human health impacts is a violation of human rights, particularly the rights to health and a safe environment. Pesticide exposure seriously undermines the reproductive rights of women and the rights of children. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) affirms the reproductive rights of women (Articles 11 and 12) and calls on states to take appropriate measures against all forms of exploitation of women.
Exposure to pesticides that are mutagenic and/or reproductive toxins, and are transmitted across the placenta to the foetus or through breast milk to infants, pose development risks to children. The concept of intergenerational equity was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Conference, with Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 stating that chemical contamination causes “grave damage to human health, genetic structures and reproductive outcomes.” Also, children involved in agricultural work are exposed to pesticides; some of them even work as pesticide sprayers, putting them at serious risk of permanent health problems such as poor mental and physical development. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes the right to education, fair wages and health, calls on governments to protect the rights of children.
The world must not forget the Tragedy of Bhopal that up to this day continues to severely afflict people, particularly women and children. Twenty seven years ago on December 3, 1984, Dow’s factory (formerly Union Carbide) in Bhopal, India leaked 47 tons of poisonous gas and immediately killed about 8000 people and left 50,000 injured. Since then, thousands more have died from gas-related illnesses, like lung cancer, kidney failure and liver disease. Children born to parents affected by this disaster still suffer the effects of the poisonous gases. The nursing milk of women living near the factory contains hazardous chemicals, such as chloroform, lead, and mercury. Up to this day, Dow has refused to neither clean-up the contaminated site nor provide just compensation to the victims and survivors.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations
Dow and other agrochemical transnational companies (TNCs) who develop, manufacture and distribute of HHPs have avoided owning up to their responsibilities from the harm caused by HHPs. From December 3 to 6, 2011, simultaneously with the launch of the NPUW, PAN International will bring together peoples from different sectors from all over the world to bear witness to the human rights violations – including violations of women’s and children’s rights – of the six largest agrochemical TNCs before the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT). These are Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF. The PPT Session, though not legally-binding, is a valiant step towards ending the impunity with which agrochemical TNCs commit crimes against the people, and to create an effective system of corporate accountability. To know more about the PPT Session on Agrochemical TNCs, please visit http://www.agricorporateaccountability.net
Since 1998, PAN AP and its partners commemorate the tragic episode of Bhopal Disaster of 3rd December 1984 to draw attention to the life threatening impacts of HHPs on people’s health and the environment. For information on how you can get involved in NPUW campaign, or for more details on women, children and HHPs please contact Erwin Navarro at email@example.com.