Chemicals used on banana plantations harm health of indigenous children

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Scientists in Costa Rica have published the report of a study undertaken to evaluate children’s exposure to chlorpyrifos in villages situated nearby banana plantations and plantain farms in Costa Rica. 140 children mainly indigenous Ngäbe and Bribri were included in the study which revealed that ‘children living nearby plantations with chlorpyrifos-treated bags are exposed to levels of the chemical which may harm their health’.

Throughout Latin American and West Africa, chlorpyrifos-treated bags are widely used to protect banana plants from insects and to fulfill product standards, even in populated areas.

One of the villages featured in the study, Daytonia, situated outside the Bribri Indigenous Territory, is inhabited almost exclusively by indigenous Ngäbe migrants from Panama. Daytonia is surrounded by two large-scale banana plantations with intensive chemical pesticide use. The study revealed that the distance between houses and the banana plantations ranged from 15 to 80 metres and that the school and soccer-field, where local children usually play, are in close proximity to the plantations, without any physical barrier. The bananas produced here are exported to the US and Europe. Health impacts of exposure to this organoposphate include suicidal thoughts, respiratory problems and birth defects.

The report concluded that interventions to reduce chlorpyrifos exposure are therefore ‘likely to improve children’s health and environment in banana and plantain growing regions’. Some plantations in Central America do use bags without chlorpyriphos and organic certification prohibits the use of bags lined with chlorpyriphos.

Watch a Banana Link short film shot recently in Cameroon that details the use of chlorpyrifos-treated bags - Labouring in the field. Banana Link also have a wide range of films that detail the environmental and health impacts of tropical fruit production.

Read more about the report