SAO PAULO – Human Rights Watch warned in a report released this Friday about the poisoning taking place in Brazilian communities from chronic exposure to pesticides, and asked authorities to suspend aerial fumigation until the matter has been analyzed.
“Ordinary people going about their daily routines are exposed to toxic applications of pesticides that frequently occur near their homes, schools and workplaces,” the NGO said in a report entitled “You Don’t Want to Inhale More Poison.”
In order to take the study, HRW interviewed 73 people last year in seven rural areas, some of them threatened by large agricultural producers, who had suffered symptoms caused by “intense toxication.”
The related symptoms generally include nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, sweating, headaches and stupefaction.
However, chronic exposure to pesticides is also associated with infertility, fetal deformation and cancer, among other serious health problems.
One of the cases mentioned in the report is that of a rural school in Mato Grosso state, the largest grain producer in Brazil, located amid some big plantations.
“I started vomiting several times, I threw up everything in my stomach and kept doing it. The classes were canceled for everyone and I went home,” said Carina, an adult student at this school victimized by indiscriminate fumigation.
In the neighboring state of Mato Grosso do Sul, a community made up of several hundred Guarani-Kaiowa Indians, located some 50 meters from fields of soy and corn, also reported having suffered episodes of poisoning caused by fumigation both from the air and on the ground.
Similar situations were described by the inhabitants of “quilombos,” as the hinterland communities are known that were originally established by fugitive African slaves in the state of Minas Gerais.
HWR also warned that “there are no trustworthy government statistics about how many people in Brazil suffer from ‘agrotoxic’ poisoning.”
Nine of the 10 most used “agrotoxins” in Brazil are considered “exceedingly dangerous” by the NGO Pesticide Action Network International, and four of them are banned in the European Union.
HWR recommends that the Brazilian government “suspend aerial fumigation with pesticides” until a study is taken “about their effects on human health and the environment, and their economic costs,” while banning “immediately” the spraying of pesticides on land near areas of human habitation.