Spray Proves Disastrous
In Salkiana Village, Jalandhar
By Kheti Virasat
04 August, 2006
Report of a Fact
Finding Visit by Kheti Virasat Mission
21 July 2006 began as any
other day for the residents of Salkiana village in Jalandhar district.
That was until around 8.30 am - until they started feeling severe suffocation
and breathlessness. The worst affected were the school children of the
Government-run Elementary School. It was just after Morning Prayers
that the students started complaining of a strange smell and breathlessness.
The teachers were not aware of what happened either. Suddenly one student
fell unconscious near the hand pump [of the drinking water tube well]
and then student after student started to faint. Within ten minutes,
16 students fainted after inhaling something that was toxic.
It was not just the school
children who were affected. The villagers outside the school were also
experiencing and complaining about breathlessness by then. Some women
in the adjoining houses are reported to have fainted too.
There was total panic in
the village for a while. It was only then the villagers began to realize
what happened – IT WAS A DEADLY PESTICIDE SPRAYED IN A NEARBY
SUGARCANE FIELD THAT HAD AFFECTED THE VILLAGERS. The villagers then
understood that they were experiencing acute poisoning symptoms.
Meanwhile the farm workers,
who had sprayed this pesticide, came into the village and disclosed
that they had sprayed PHORATE. In this case, it was Sudarshan Chemicals'
SUTOX 100 that they had sprayed. The workers had sprayed 15 kilos of
Phorate 10G in 3.75 acres by then.
In the school, the situation had become quite serious by then and the
teachers started experiencing breathlessness too. Students started complaining
of difficulty in breathing, severe headache, body ache, irritation in
eyes, uneasiness, dizziness and some of them started vomiting.
The teachers acted very swiftly
and informed the higher authorities and the local health officer. Within
half an hour, a team of doctors reached the school and first-aid was
administered. The affected students and teachers were shifted to Civil
Hospital, Phillour [the nearest town]. However, some parents took their
children to private hospitals also. Some children with severe breathlessness
were administered oxygen.
Fact Finding Visit:
Following this incident,
a fact finding visit was made by Kheti Virasat Mission on 26th and 28
th July to this village. The teachers, the students, the other affected
villagers, the sarpanch and other farmers were interviewed as part of
the fact finding visit. In addition, the FFT [fact finding team] spoke
with the doctors in the Civil Hospital and met with the SDM, Phillour.
This report tries to give
a picture of the situation based on all the information gathered from
these interviews and discussions.
According to the doctors
at civil hospital, patients were admitted with following signs and symptoms
[somewhat varying between patients]:
1. Excessive Lacrimation
2. Excessive Salivation
4. Nausea & Vomiting
6. Body aches and cramps
These patients were given first-aid there and then in the village and
later referred to Civil Hospital, Phillaur. Patients were given-
1. I/V fluids
2. Rangers Lactato
4. And 5% Dextrose
-Inj.Atropine I/M & I/V slow in cloop
-Inj. Aciloc sos
-O* 2* Inhalation
The list of patients admitted to the Civil Hospital in Phillaur, following
this poisoning incident:
1. Parwinder 13 yrs M
2. Jasbir Kaur 40 yrs F
3. Jeeto 50 yrs F
4. Sonia 13 yrs F
5. Dalwinder 15 yrs F
6. Gurdeep Singh 13 yrs M
7. Reena Kumari 13 yrs F
8. Manjit 9 yrs M
9. Kamla Devi 25 yrs F
10. Naresh Kumari 13 yrs
11. Manjit Kaur 30 yrs F
12. Navneet Kaur 13 yrs F
13. Raman Deep 12 yrs M
14. Amarjeet Kaur 22 yrs
15. Dalbiro 40 yrs F
16. Suman 18 yrs F
17. Sukhdev 15 yrs M
18. Bhagwan Dass 52 yrs M
Total: 18 persons. One adult male, seven adult females, 5 male children
and 5 female children.
All these patients were in the hospital for three days. Two others patients
Suman (18 year old young girl) and Sunita (14 year old girl) were admitted
in a private nursing home at Phillaur. Sunita, a newly-married girl
inhaled the toxic fumes when she had gone near the fields the next day.
Her condition deteriorated soon after and she was taken to the Civil
Hospital. She was then referred to a hospital in Ludhiana as her condition
was found to be critical. Her family members got her admitted in to
Arora Hospital. She was here for four days. These are the 21 cases of
hospitalization from the inhalation poisoning from the phorate spraying.
At the time of the fact finding
visit, some of the students and teachers were still unwell, even after
six days. They had irritation in eyes upto six days, itching of the
skin and general uneasiness. The teacher in the government school Mr
Bhagwan Dass was complaining of disturbance in his digestive system.
He is suffering from constipation and urinary problem. Same were the
complaints from Hardev Singh M 38 and Ms Asha Sharma F 34, both teachers
at the government school. Bakshish Chand, 37, who is also the ex-sarpanch
of the village, had similar complaints.
All children and adults,
exposed to PHORATE, were experiencing loss of appetite even on sixth
day after exposure. Most of the children poisoned were from SC community
with low incomes
After this incident, there
is widespread resentment and concern amongst the villagers regarding
pesticides. They are quite worried about safety from pesticides. The
elders at village feel that there should at least be restrictions followed
about spraying away from the village that too from schools etc.
Mr Ram Kishan, Harjeet Ram and Ram Swarup (all members of the Panchayat)
and other villagers were of the strong view that some concrete steps
should be taken to prevent such mishaps in future.
The Doctors who worked tirelessly
at Civil Hospital, Phillaur were admitting their limitations in dealing
with a case like this, given that none of them is a trained environmental
Phorate is a Class IA pesticide
– which means that by World Health Organisation's classification,
it is "Extremely Hazardous". Phorate 10% G falls under Class
IB. The Food & Agriculture Organisation recommends that products
that fall under Class IA and Class I B [Extremely Hazardous and Highly
Hazardous] should not be used in developing countries given a variety
of safety concerns related to these products.
Phorate poisoning in India
Phorate is an organo-phosphorus
pesticide implicated in several poisoning cases earlier. For instance,
in June 2001, phorate was implicated in poisoning of workers in a tea
estate and in a cardamom plantation in Kerala . A 16 year old boy,
Kannan, died applying phorate on June 26th in a cardamom plantation.
On the tea estate in Idukki district, on the same day, 41 people in
all got affected. They all experienced acute poisoning symptoms of blurred
vision, vomiting and dizziness.
Mancini et al report in the
International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 2005
that acute pesticide poisoning from Organophosphorus pesticides like
phorate was quite common, especially amongst low income marginal farmers
in cotton growing belts of South India.
There are reports that indicate
that upon ingestion of organo phosphate pesticides like phorate and
monocrotophos, there is also the danger of Organo Phosphate Induced
Delayed Neuropathy which appears 2-4 weeks after poisoning and leads
to motor paralysis [affecting the distal muscles of limbs, minimal sensory
involvement and calf pain which precedes its onset].
Acute poisoning due to phorate
intoxication was reported from Tamluk in West Bengal in the Journal
of Indian Pediatrics in 2002. Here, the affected were mainly toddlers.
Significant amongst all the
published studies is a report by Kashyap  which reported that
" Exposure of 40 formulators to a highly toxic OP insecticide (phorate)
showed that over 60% of the workers suffered from toxic effects in spite
of using a complete set of protective clothing" .
In Wayanad district of Kerala,
in July 2002, children exposed to phorate fumes sprayed on banana plantations
had to be admitted to hospitals. These children had experienced vomiting,
dizziness and headaches.
According to the first information
report available with Thanal, on July 10, 2002, children arriving at
the Kottathara upper primary school complained of an unbearable stench,
obviously from the banana fields where workers were busy applying a
mixture of fertilizer and pesticide (Phorate 10%) to the soil before
planting the banana rhizomes. As the day progressed, and aided by the
breeze, the smell became worse and the children started complaining
of severe headache and dizziness. Meanwhile, efforts by the school authorities
to stop the workers from continuing using more pesticide were met with
a firm refusal. The situation soon began to get out of hand as children
began fainting; gram panchayat officials were contacted for jeeps to
help carry the students to hospital. On July 17, the children were back
in hospital with similar complaints. Doctors confirmed that the symptoms
were of acute toxic exposure.
As per a study published
in Economic & Political Weekly, December 2004, based on field investigations
in high pesticide consumption districts in four states of India, phorate
was implicated in creating adverse health effects amongst respondents.
Ch. Srinivas Rao et al reported
in the Journal of Tropical Medicine & International Health [Vol.
10, No. 6, June 2005] about acute pesticide poisoning in South India
. In this paper, the authors report that Warangal district in Andhra
Pradesh alone records more than 1000 pesticide poisoning cases each
year and hundreds of deaths. They report that in the district government
hospital, between 1997 and 2002, 8040 patients were admitted to the
hospital with pesticide poisoning. In 2002, there were 21 cases of poisonings
due to phorate, including 4 deaths.
About Class I pesticides
It is estimated that 2 to
5 million people every year suffer acute poisonings all over the world
and that around 40,000 people die. These are very conservative estimates
and these poisonings occur mostly in the developing world, caused mainly
due to OP pesticides. Many of these are Class IA and Class IB pesticides.
In India, despite the fact that FAO has recommended the non-usage of
Class IA and IB pesticides, a number of these products continue to be
It is only from July 1 st
2006, after many long years of activist struggles with the company that
Bayer, a market leader in pesticides in India , had stopped marketing
many of its deadliest pesticides including its Class I products. In
earlier studies done by groups like Centre for Sustainable Agriculture,
Hyderabad , many such products were implicated in acute poisoning hospitalizations
and deaths .
It is also interesting to
note that even though the Central Insecticides Board is currently reviewing
several pesticides that have been banned in other countries for their
continued use in India, Phorate, Hinosan, Oxydemeton-Methyl, Methyl
Parathion etc., are not amongst them!
Given the wide extent of
acute poisoning and the related socio-economic problems, we strongly
demand the following:
To the government:
- Immediately ban aggressive
marketing of pesticides and all type of agro-chemicals including all
forms of advertisements and publicity of pesticides along with all incentives
given to pesticide dealers' network.
- Punjab Government should
take –up a proactive campaign on ill effects of pesticides.
- acknowledge the threat
and that the problem of serious health effects with pesticides exists
- assess the extent of the
problem with various adverse health effects of pesticides
- raise awareness about the
dangers through well-financed education campaigns
- ensure the dissemination
of information on ill effects of pesticides to all users
- fix liability and get compensation
to be paid for medical care and economic rehabilitation for all victims
– get the industry to pay up; if not, the government to pay
To the Union of India:
- ban all class I a, I b
and II pesticides
- modify pesticide risk assessment
procedures – bring in the precautionary principle
- promote better and safer
agricultural practices including NPM approach and organic farming
- curb aggressive marketing
by pesticide industry
To the health sector:
- train and equip health
sector staff and infrastructure to identify and deal with such cases
- set up systems for regular
and proper monitoring
- Government should fill
posts of District Epidemiologist in all districts on priority basis.
- Citizens committee on epidemiological
surveillance shall formed under District Epidemiologists to ensure community
participation in mitigation and crisis management process
To the Industry:
- pay compensation to all
the persons affected
- pro-actively withdraw all
Class I and Class II products from the market
- stop aggressive marketing
UNIVERSITY [PAU ]
1. Ample funding should be
provided to Punjab Agriculture University to ensure adequate education,
research and extension on organic farming
2. Policy formulation as
well as agriculture recommendations should be such that they are evolved
from the original experiences of organic farmers. PAU should draw from
such experiences and not just research in agriculture research station
3. Crops that are suitable
to the local natural eco-systems should be promoted and research should
be taken up on this basis
 "Phorate Poisoning of Children and Women in Idukki district
of Kerala", Thanal, Trivandrum, July 2001
 "Health surveillance
and biological monitoring of pesticide formulators in India", S
K Kashyap, Toxicol Lett. 1986 Oct;33(1-3):107-14
 "Pesticide poisoning
in south India: opportunities for prevention and improved medical management",
Ch Srinivas Rao et al, Tropical medicine & International health,
Volume 10, No. 6, June 2005
 "Killing & Poisoning
Pests or Human Beings? – acute poisoning of pesticide users through
pesticide exposure/inhalation", Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
& MARI, 2005