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UN warns Costa Rica on the use of pesticides

The United Nations (UN) alerted Costa Rica on the high cost of pesticide use on health and its impacts.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with the support of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), prepared a report denominated Diagnosis of health effects due to the use of pesticides in Costa Rica.

High use of pesticides in Costa Rica affects the health and threatens the lives of agricultural plantation workers, who are constantly victims of intoxications.

“We believe that a rigorous analysis by the national authorities of the high costs of pesticide use is urgently needed. The amount for treatments by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), policies of the National Insurance Institute (INS), payment of disabilities and economic activity not carried out due to disabilities exceeds ¢5,000 million colones annually,” said Kifah Sasa Marín, officer in charge of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of the UN.

In fact, 65.68% took place in the agricultural sector, mostly in bananas, coffee and pineapple plantations, which are the country’s main crops.

According to the report, “most of the acute intoxications recorded were mainly related to diazinon, paraquat and glyphosate pesticides.” Some of the health complications had to do with digestive systemic, dermal, respiratory and ophthalmic problems.

“It is important to point out long-term poisoning, according to global scientific literature, could be linked to different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, male infertility, among other diseases,” the study pointed out.

Between 2010 and 2020, 58 deaths due to poisoning were reported nationwide, mainly associated with agrochemicals. The main victims were men with an average age of 39.29 years, as highlighted by the report.

Costa Rica continues to use substances that have been eliminated, banned or categorized as hazardous, both by international organizations and by agreements signed by the country. For instance, the country uses paraquat, whose toxicity has been warned in the Rotterdam Convention.

“It has been shown worldwide that long-term exposure to pesticides can cause health effects, such as damage to the cardiovascular and immune systems, to the digestive tract, to the blood, and it has even been reported that some pesticides classified as highly hazardous can cause cancer,” explained Dr. Gabriela Rey, Technical Officer PAHO/WHO Costa Rica.

“It is therefore necessary to continue carrying out epidemiological and exposure assessment studies to support the decision making of the actors involved in this issue, in order to avoid affecting the health and quality of life of the population and, consequently, to reduce the health, social and economic burden that it entails for the countries,” she concluded.

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