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Pesticidas, herbicidas y salud
Pesticides, herbicides and health
Attitudes of local residents as to perceived sources of pesticide contamination in waterways through the use of pesticides in the area. Recommendations for further study included.
Actitudes de los residentes locales en cuanto a la percepcin de las fuentes de contaminacin de plaguicidas en los cursos de agua mediante el uso de plaguicidas en la zona. Incluye recomendaciones para futuras investigaciones.
We conducted archival data research, informal interviews, semistructured interviews, participant observation, and questionnaires over the course of four weeks. (It is important to note that we were in class most of the time.) Although we were unable to take any environmental measures, we discovered through key informant interviews that there are potential risks of contamination to the local waterways from herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer runoff but mostly from fincas that contain livestock ganaderos not agricultores. We also discovered that there is a threat of contamination to the milk because the pastures are often sprayed with pesticides and the cattle is given toxic parasite removers. A possible additional threat comes from peoples attitudes toward pesticides, which reveal that people may not be fully aware of the potential effects of longterm exposure. We recommend further study into this issue in the coming year particularly involving a group that can evaluate environmental and human contamination from pesticides.
Nosotros hicimos investigacin de archivos de datos, entrevistas informales, entrevistas semiestructuradas, observaciones participativas, y cuestionarios, sobre el curso de cuatro semanas (es importante anotar que estuvimos en la clase la mayor parte del tiempo). A pesar de que no nos fue posible realizar medidas ambientales, descubrimos a travs de entrevistas claves con nuestros informantes que hay un riesgo potencial de contaminacin en las aguas locales por herbicidas, pesticidas y fertilizantes que corren en fincas que sostienen animales domsticos, en su mayora son ganaderos y no agricultores. Adems, descubrimos que hay una amenaza de contaminacin en la leche porque los pastizales son irrigados con pesticidas y el ganado recibe txicos para remover los parsitos. Otra amenaza potencial viene de la actitud de las personas hacia los pesticidas, lo cual demuestra que la gente no est totalmente consiente de los potenciales efectos en el largo plazo. Recomendamos mayores estudios en este sentido para el ao que viene, particularmente involucrando a un grupo que pueda evaluar la contaminacin ambiental y humana con respecto a los pesticidas.
Water--Pesticide content--Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone
Pesticides--Adverse effects--Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone
Pesticide waste--Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone
Agricultural chemicals--Environmental aspects
Community Health 2001
Pesticide use by homeowners
Scanned by Monteverde Institute
t Community Health
Pesticides, Herbicides and Health Edgar Amador Terra Bredeson Laura Severance Globalization, Nutrition, and Health Monteverde Institute, June 24 to July 21, 2001
Abstract We conducted archival data research, informal interviews, semi structured interviews, participant observation, and questionnaires over the course of four weeks. (It is important to note that we were in class most of the time.) Although we were unable to take any environmental measures, we discovered through key informant interviews that there are potential risks of contamination to the local waterways from herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer run off but mostly from fincas that contain livestock Â– ganaderos not agricultores. We also discovered that there is a threat of contamination to the milk because the pastures are often sprayed with pesticides and the cattle is given toxic parasite removers. A possible additional threat comes from peopleÂ’s attitudes toward pesticides, which reveal that people may not be fully aware of the potential effects of long term exposure. We recommend further study into this issue in the coming year particularly involving a group that can evaluate environmental and human contamination from pesticides. Introduction According to Luisa Eugenia CastilloÂ’s article, pesticides were introduced in Central America before 1950 and it was during this initial phase that organochlorines (a group containing some of the most dangerous pesticides) were widely in use. Costa Rica first restricted the traditional organochlorines in 1980 and banned them between 1988 and 1990. After 1983, DDT, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, and toxaphene were no longer imported for agricultural purposes. During the middle 1980s however, the Ministry of Health reported the use of 21, 000 kg of DDT for malaria control (Castillo/website). Bananas also account for 25 30% of all pesticides imported into Costa Rica (FAO website). A third of pesticide poisoning comes from the banana region where dermatitis, eye problems, and chronic respiratory problems are commonly reported (Castillo/web). Pesticides have also had a severe effect on Costa RicaÂ’s ecology; the impact on the aquatic ecosystem has been the most documented with high levels of organochlorines occurring in oceans, lakes, and rivers. These pollutants have caused the destruction of 90% of Costa RicaÂ’s coral reefs ( www.gksoft ) and have been found in aquatic bird eggs and mayflies ( www.gksoft ).
Table I: Banned and Restricted Pesticides in Costa Rica Pesticide Legal Status Year of legal action Lindane Restricted 1980 DDT banned 1988 Aldrin banned 1988 Dieldrin banned 1988 Toxaphene banned 1988 Chlordecone banned 1988 Chlordimeform banned 1988 Endrin banned 1990 Pentachlorofenol banned 1990 Chlordane banned 1990 Heptachlor banned 1990 Source: Ministry of Health, Costa Rica and Castillo/web. The types of pesticides that were imported and used in Latin America underwent a change during the 1980s, when Â“less persistent but more toxic pesticides began to be usedÂ” (Castillo/website): Currently the main group of pesticides used in Costa Rica are organophosphates, carba mates and pyrethroids among the insecticides; the dithiocarbamic fungicides; and phenoxy acids, dipyridyls and more recently triazines as herbicides (Castillo/website). However, it is Endosulfan, organochlorines, that is still the most imported chemical toxin; it is banned in the United States and is currently recommended by the Ministry of Health to control insects and abroca del caf in coffee (Castillo/website). High levels of other organochlorines, like DDT, have been found in agricultural areas and malaria control areas with high residues in human milk and adipose tissue. The values Â“are among the highest found in different parts of the worldÂ” (Castillo/website). DBCP, another chemical toxin that was banned in the US as early 1979 by the EPA, is still produced in the US for exportation to other countries like Costa Rica, where it has been blamed for as many as 1500 men becoming sterile (bananas.agoranet.be/environmental.htm). Table II: Average Concentration and Ranges of s DDT (in mg/kg) in Human Milk and Adipose Tissue in Costa Rica Type of sample #of samples Year of sampling Mean Reference Human milk Lowlands 29 1980 1,27 Umaa & Constenla, 1984 Highlands 22 1980 0,11 Idem. Urban Area 10 1983 0,22 Barquero & Thiel, 1986 Adipose tissue: All areas 82 81 82 33,2 Barquero & Constenla, 1986 Source: Castillo/web
Locally, key informant interviews revealed that in agricultural areas inside the zone like San Luis pesticides were always in use and herbicides were first used about 20 years ago. Popularity for herbicide use increased as people discovered they were cheap and required less work then clearing fields by hand (key informant interview). During the 1980Â’s there was a period of increased use of pesticides and herbicides (key informant interview). This observation correlates well with our archival data, which documented an increase in use and a change during the mid 1980Â’s Â“to less persistent but more toxic pesticidesÂ” (Castillo/website). During the early 90s, there was a change towards more organic alternatives (key informant interviews). According to our informants, there were many factors that facilitated this transition. These factors include peopleÂ’s negative experiences using pesticides and herbicides as well as governmental and private involvement. For example, the Friends Community of Unity with Nature, a Quaker group based in US, sponsored education programs for local farmers to travel to the US and learn about the dangers associated with pesticide use. These programs also introduced them to new hazardous alternatives to traditional pesticides (FAO). Given the history of pesticide and herbicide use in Costa Rica and the Monteverde zone, our group composed of three anthropologists with a strong interest in environmental issues that pertain to public health will attempt to address the following questions, which were developed in part with the feedback that we obtained during the community meeting: Community Health Threat What is the history of pesticide use in the Monteverde zone? What kinds of pesticide or herbicide using micro economies exist in the Monteverde zone? How are the fields located in relation to all the different communities? Waterways? Wind patterns? What kinds of pesticides are sold and bought, and who buys them? Where? Do the ganaderos use pesticide or herbicides on their fields or cattle? What threat do pesticides and herbicides pose to the community in the Monteverde zone? What threat do pesticides and herbicides pose to the local environment and ecosystems? What is the prevalence of acute cases of pesticide or herbicide intoxication? Chronic cases? What kinds of diseases have been associated with pesticide use in other places and do those diseases occur here? Individual Health Threat What are peopleÂ’s attitudes towards pesticides? What emic classifications exist? What dangers do people associate them with? How do pesticides get sprayed in the fields? By whom? With what kind of safety equipment? What kinds of domestic insecticide use occur in the Monteverde zone? What kinds of safety precautions are used with domestic insecticide? Research Methods Methodologically speaking, our group is limited by the fact that we are unable to obtain any measures of the levels of pesticides and herbicides in the environment or in people. As social scientists, however, we can begin to answer some of our research questions and provide a foundation for future research. We understand the
research process in the social sciences to involve a preliminary step before hypothesis formulation and testing that is more comprehensive than a simple literature review. We propose to enhance our archival data with informal interviews and participant observation to better understand the problem as it occurs here in its cultural context. Sampling was problematic in our research. The Monteverde zone is composed of multiple communities that should be independently sampled using a method like stratified random sampling (see Table III). Table 3: Population in the Monteverde Zone (data from the EBAIS) Santa Elena Cerro Plano Monteverde San Luis Caitas/La Cruz Population 1310 800 264 339 ? However, we could not obtain a representative nor a random sample of the zone or individual communities due to our time limitations. Instead, we used a small convenience sample taking advantage of our time off and our trips as a class to the San Luis health post to gather data. We decided as a group, therefore, to use archival data in elucidating the history of pesticide and herbicide use in Costa Rica, as well as the Monteverde zone. We also used archival data to research the legislative history of our topic, as well as any information that we could obtain on the current policies or initiatives of the Costa Rican government. In addition, we used informal interviews, semi structured interviews, and participant observation to obtain information on the topic from community members. We talked with clerks in local stores, farmers, community leaders, doctors, agricultural engineers, and participated in the San Luis health study. Further, we participated in a community forum that included discussion on pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides where we learned the aspects of the issue that are of interest to the community. After analyzing the data from our ongoing interviews and participant observations, we decided to develop two questionnaires. The first consisted of two questions that related to domestic insecticide use and pesticide/herbicide use; these two questions were really part of a larger class questionnaire that was used in San Luis. The second questionnaire contained a likert scale that was designed to assess community members perspectives on pesticide use. We were careful to protect our informantÂ’s identities especially because of the sensitive nature of our questions in light of the recent Ministry of Health initiative to seek out and prosecute violators. We tried not to allow our own opinions to influence the way we treated our informants. We encountered many time and transportation obstacles, particularly because of the rigorous nature of our course. Language barriers played an important role in our project due to the inability of two of our members to speak fluent Spanish. Methodological problems included our small and non random samples and our inability to procure any environmental or human toxicity measures. Overall, our experience was a positive one; we were able to learn from the Monteverde and San Luis communities beginning a process that will eventually benefit the community.
Findings Key Informant Interviews According to key informants, pesticide pollutants are not a threat at the community level both because of the relatively small scale of agriculture in the region and because of the decreasing use of these chemicals in favor of more organic alternatives. In San Luis, for example, we found many informants switching to organic. People in San Luis generally reported not liking the taste of non organic vegetables and fruits. People in this community still report the use of herbicides, but claim they only do so sporadically (generalization from informants). Although the majority of the people (16 out of 22 in our survey) use insecticides inside the home regularly, most reported that they did not use herbicides or pesticides (10 out of 22) (see Table 4). Table 4: Encuesta Familiar: Questions pertaining to homestead chemical use N Insecticide Use at home Pesticides/Herbicides 1 No Very little. Seasonally 2 Yes. Raid Yes. For coffee 3 Yes. Baygon Yes. To kill weeds sometimes 4 Yes. Raid No. 5 No. No. 6 No. Yes. Once a month 7 Yes. No. 8 No. No. 9 Yes. Ants No. 10 Yes. Baygon No. 11 Yes. Baygon No. 12 Yes. Raid for roaches Yes. Sometimes outside for flies 13 No. Once a year. 14 Yes. Raid for flies No. 15 Yes. Raid Max a lot Yes. Very little to burn weeds 16 Yes. Yes. 17 No. No. 18 No. No. 19 Yes. Baygon No. 20 Yes. Baygon No. 21 Yes. Raid Yes. Gramason. 22 Yes. To fumigate the house Yes. On coffee According to some of our informants, it is the 250 milk producing fincas in the zone that present the biggest potential hazard. This is due in part to the use of fertilizers and herbicides in pastures, which increase nitrate/nitrite levels and adds dangerous toxins to the local waterways. Another component involves potential contamination of the milk due to the cowsÂ’ consumption of herbicide sprayed pastures. In addition, livestock parasite removers with dangerous chemical properties are often sprayed or applied on the cattle. In fact, two key informants stated that very little safety equipment is used during the application of these chemicals and that the residue is generally not disposed of properly (sometimes just dumped in Quebradas).
The results of the questionnaire on the emic perceptions regarding the hazardous nature of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers are listed in Table 5. We surveyed twelve individuals in Cerro Plano, Monteverde, and Santa Elena. In our scale, a value of five meant that the informant perceived the chemical to be the most toxic. Table 5: Results of Questionnaire on Perceived Dangers from Pesticides n Com.Live Com. Work Occupation Herb. Pest. Insect. Par. Rem. Fert. 1 Cerro Plano Santa Elena Cook 5 5 5 No se No se 2 San Jose San Jose Exch. Org. 4 5 4 5 4 3 Caitas Santa Elena Dependent 5 5 3 4 5 4 Santa Elena Santa Elena Taxi driver 3 3 3 2 4 5 San Mateo Vender 1 1 1 2 2 6 Santa Elena Santa Elena Vender 3 2 4 5 5 7 San Ramon Santa Elena Farmer 3 1 1 2 3 8 Monte los Olivos Dairy Farmer 5 5 3 3 3 9 San Luis Monteverde Finance 3 5 5 3 4 10 Monteverde Monteverde Logistic Coordinator 5 5 5 5 4 11 San Rafael Monteverde Sales 5 5 5 5 5 12 San Luis Monteverde Food Processor 5 5 5 5 5 In general, we can say that the perceived threat is greater if the individual did not work in anything related to agriculture (see Table 6). These people generally answered more uniformly and with stronger ratings in each of the categories. Table 6: Emic Questionnaire on Perceived Dangers from Pesticides Herbicides Pesticides Insecticides Parasite Removers Fertilizers Related 3.666 3.166 3.166 3.400 3.600 Not Related 4.166 4.666 4.166 4.000 4.333 Finally, Table 7 lists all of the agricultural chemicals we found for sale in the area. Most of them are sold in the UPA Nacional. We were unable to find most of the MSDS sheets for these chemicals. We did learn, however, that Endosulfan is highly toxic and that Fusilade and Glyphosate are relatively harmless. Table 7: Pesticides for Sale in the Monteverde Zone Pesticides and Herbicides Livestock Parasite Removers Insecticides Glifosato Neguvon Mirex Tofdou Byticol Raid Endosulfan Nuvan Baygon Fedexone Besuntol Fusilade Sagescoop Lazo
Discussion We were surprised to find that the pollution threat in the minds of our key informants is mostly related to the milk producing fincas and not farmers. During the community meeting, attendants identified the agricultural sites as bigger threats than the fincas, which they largely ignored. Also, we were surprised to find that the majority of people in San Luis are regularly using insecticides like Raid or Baygon. We also found that there was nitrate/nitrite run off that was coming from pasture fertilizers. Previously, most of the nitrate/nitrites were thought to come from septic tanks. Recommendations This health topic should be further explored within the Monteverde, San Luis, Santa Elena, and Cerro Plano communities in order to provide more concrete evidence of chemical dangers. Further studies should be conducted next year with equipment that can measure the nitrate/nitrite levels in the water and the levels of chemicals in milk. The following are a few recommendations we make in order to improve the health status of the communities: Test local milk products Assess safety precautions Test fields and waterways in agricultural zones Test population for pesticide toxicity Continue campaign on organic alternatives