Amid health and environmental concerns over the use of some agrochemical products in Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has been called upon to urgently ban Paraquat—a toxic herbicides which is being used by many farmers in the control of weeds.
Paraquat is the active ingredient in some popular brands of herbicides currently on sale and in wide use in Nigeria and some other developing countries, and is associated with liver, lungs, kidneys, cancer and the nervous system diseases.
Dr Udensi Udensi, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Prof. Steve Weller, a retired professor from the Purdue University, United States and Charles Riches, from UK’s Agherba Consultants, made the call in two reports released recently.
Newspeakonline understands that the reports have already been presented to NAFDAC.
Dr Udensi, in the report titled: the Rural Appraisal on the use of Paraquat in Nigeria, described the chemical as “one of the most highly acute toxic herbicides to be marketed in the last 60 years”.
According to him, “Paraquat remains one of the pesticides active ingredient responsible for more fatal poisonings than any other pesticides substances. Workers who are exposed to Paraquat over a long period have been found to be at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life”.
Udensi’s study which covered six states – Abia, Benue, Enugu, Ogun, Oyo and Rivers States, showed that about 56% of the farmers and others have been unduly exposed to paraquat while about 33% of the cases across the states have confirmed symptoms to exposure. He regretted that most of those exposed do not seek medical attention because “some of the manifested symptoms are not different from everyday symptoms of normal life stress.”
The second study done by Prof. Weller, and Dr Charles Riches, corroborated Udensi’s position, stating that the negative effects of Paraquat on humans and potential for short- and long-term negative effects on human health are overwhelmingly strong. Their report showed that human contact with Paraquat has been associated with health issues affecting the liver, lungs, kidneys, cancer and the nervous system.
Weller and Riches expressed concerns that even though farmers see Paraquat as very effective, its level of toxicity demands high handling skills and stricter regulatory measures which Nigeria and several other countries do not have. They pointed out that undue exposure due to problematic handling and regulatory issues have led to the ban of the chemical in more than 32 countries.
“We strongly encourage NAFDAC to ban Paraquat sale and use in Nigeria. This is based on the current situation in Nigeria that no mechanism or regulations exist to establish or enforce licensing of applicators or regulations of Paraquat sale or use as a Restricted Use Pesticide” the scientists said in their reports titled Status of Paraquat in Nigeria: Why a Ban is Necessary.
They argued that contrary to claims that there were no adequate alternatives to paraquat, there were safer and equally effective options in, glufosinate, diphenyl ether, arlyoxyphenoxy-propionate and cyclohexanediones.
It would be recalled that in June 2019, NAFDAC hinted that it had plans to ban Paraquat as a result of mounting evidence that they were harmful to applicators and the environment. Dr Usman Bukar, NAFDAC’s Director of Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products who spoke at the launch of a new herbicide (Lifeline) at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, said the decision was coming at a time when new herbicides that are safer and environmentally friendly were being registered in Nigeria.
The researchers urged NAFDAC to do the needful and save Nigerian farmers from an imminent calamity.