Paraquat is among the most widely used pesticide for weed control and is the most toxic herbicide. Its adverse and chronic health effects are recognized and there is no antidote available.
1. Atrocities span 50 years
This weed-killer, one of the most toxic without an antidote, continues to cause unnecessary harm and deaths worldwide. Paraquat is widely used by farmers in various agricultural crops as well as by oil palm plantations and growers. Part of the original Dirty Dozen, paraquat is included in PAN International’s list of highly hazardous pesticides
Paraquat has been marketed and used worldwide for the past 50 years. In developing countries thousands of agricultural workers and others have been poisoned every year as protective clothing and proper safety equipment is not deemed a priority, is unaffordable, not available or not practical for use given the country’s climate conditions. The corporations that manufacture and sell paraquat are well aware of these facts but blatantly continue unchecked to violate human rights and disregard environmental safety and sustainability standards, placing a priority on profits at the expense of human health and lives.
A Travesty of Human Rights Violations
Paraquat is among the most widely used pesticide for weed control. Its adverse health effects are recognised, and industrialised countries that allow paraquat use all recommend stringent precautions. But these conditions cannot be guaranteed in developing countries. The leading manufacturer, Syngenta, now shares the market with other companies, and all target sales in Asia and Latin America, where public interest groups have called for a phase out because of health concerns. In December 2011, Syngenta along with other agrochemical transnational corporations were found guilty of gross human rights violations by a Session of the Permanent People's Tribunal.
2. Accumulative negative health impacts
Syngenta sells the pesticide globally under the brand name Gramoxone. It is extensively used on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapple, rubber, and sugar cane - in plantations and small-scale farms. Paraquat is highly acutely toxic, with no known antidote. Less than one teaspoon, if ingested, is fatal. Documented health effects of exposure to the chemical include Parkinsons’s disease, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and cancer.For more information, see the paraquat monograph and paraquat factsheet.
Immediate effects occur frequently among paraquat users and include
- eye injury, nosebleed, irritation and burns of skin and nails;
- nausea, vomiting or pains, and difficulty in breathing may develop with a delay of two to three days; and
Over time, paraquat could affect the lungs, nerve system and brain, skin and reproduction. It could pose birth defects and impact children's brain growth. More recently, more studies have validated concerns over paraquat and an increased risk for developing Parkinson's Disease (PD).
3. Environmental Concerns
Widespread environmental problems, springing from the rampant use of paraquat have resulted in contamination and pollution of local water supplies, fish losses, soil degradation, wildlife animals death, insect resistance and the degradation of flora and fauna. The use of paraquat has a negative impact in the ecological balance of both aquatic and agroecological systems.
4. Regulatory Status
Liquid formulations containing at least 20percent active ingredient have been recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention.
During the Sixth Conference of Parties of the Rotterdam Convention, Guatemala, India, and Iran blocked the listing of severely hazardous formulations of paraquat, in particular Gramoxone or liquid formulations containing 276g/L or higher of paraquat dicloride. Know more.
Paraquat is banned in at least 36 countries including Switzerland, Syngenta's home country, and restricted in other countries. Both Sri Lanka and China have imposed restrictions on certain formulations.
For more information, see the paraquat monograph
Paraquat, palm oil and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
"Poisoned and Silenced" exposed the undue health hazards posed by paraquat on the mostly women sprayers in oil palm plantations. A 2010 community monitoring report revealed that hazardous pesticide practices continue. Furthermore, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has dragged its feet on its commitment to phase out this human-killer.
Unsustainable palm oil production and its subsequent use has alarming repercussions on our future. Read more as to what these problems are and act to preserve the tropical rainforests ecosystems and the communities for whom these rainforests are homeland.
Non-chemical weed management alternatives such as intercropping abound. PAN Germany produced a field guide on "How to Grow Crops without Paraquat" in contribution to the campaign in Asia and these are being distributed.