The admonition by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to Nigerians on the indiscriminate use of pesticides to eliminate insects in their homes is very necessary. The agency’s Director-General, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, gave the warning in a statement issued in Abuja, recently.
The NAFDAC boss particularly mentioned a chemical known as Toptoxin fumigation tablets which contains Aluminum Phosphate commonly used as household insecticides that could cause severe injuries and untimely death.
She said Toptoxin fumigation tablets were applied as agrochemical to control insects and rodents in stores grains, advised members of the public to strictly follow the direction for use on the package label of the fumigation tablets to avoid the danger associated with them when wrongly applied. The fumigation tablets are most dropped in the ceilings of the house so that when heated by the sun, the creatures are driven away or killed. Consequently, the effect of the chemical filtered down to imperil the household.
It is common knowledge that many Nigerians apply all manner of chemical substances to kill or ward off insects like mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, bedbugs and other creatures like scorpions, wall geckos, lizards and snakes. The common insecticide sprays are believed to be less effective though expensive hence the recourse to lethal chemical substances like sniper and locally produced “otapiapia”.
Only recently, the social media was awash with the news of a family that spread the fumigation tablets in their rooms and retired to bed. The entire household except the head of the family survive the effect of the exercise.
Besides sudden death arising from contact with the harmful chemicals, careless and repeated exposure to pesticides, even in small doses, has been linked to a number of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, sterility, and developmental disorders. Chronic exposure to pesticides can also lead to genetic changes and serious nerve disorders. Some findings have even linked pesticides as one of the causative factors for asthma, depression and anxiety.
Studies have also shown that some pesticides contain chemicals that can be especially damaging because they interfere with our hormones and hormonal balance. Over a period of time, even low concentrations of these chemicals can cause obesity, diabetes, thyroid tumors, decreased fertility, uterus abnormalities and early puberty as well as neurological issues such as loss of memory and coordination, visual impairment, mood instability and reduced motor skills. Nausea and vomiting
Others include diarrhea, loss of consciousness, seizures, coughing/and sore throat and extreme weakness.
There is also a major but under-recognised public health problem in developing world like Nigeria occasioned by free access to pesticides. According to the statistics made available by the World Health Organisation (WHO), no fewer than 400, 000 people die from deliberate ingestion of pesticides to commit suicide or cause self-harm. Many Nigerians, driven by despair, have gulped down lethal substances like sniper and otapiapia to terminate their lives.
Children are especially susceptible to harmful effects of pesticides. They easily become exposed to pesticides via inhalation or skin contact in schools, daycare, playgrounds, hospitals, and any other public areas owing to their carefree nature.
On a general note, pesticides tend to sneak into our bodies through our diets like beans, vegetables and fruits with high amounts of residue. It is a known fact that farmers, foodstuff and fruit sellers imperil consumers by indiscriminately using the chemicals to secure their products from unwanted pests. It is, therefore, advisable that we wash them under running water thoroughly before peeling, storing or cooking.
We enjoin Nigerians to heed the admonition from NAFDAC. Pesticides, like insecticides, are like a double-edge sword: they can save us from unwanted guests in our homes and cause harm if wrongly applied. Prevention, it is said, is better than cure. Factors that drive pests into the homes include filthy environmental habit and poor hygiene. A bushy neighbourhood is an invitation to all manner of unwanted creatures like snakes, scorpions, lizards, rodents, cockroaches and mosquitoes. Some kitchens replete with left-over foods and if the homes are not properly secure, the dangerous creatures easily sneak while scavenging for food.
It will not be out of place for the NAFDAC to collaborate with the relevant agencies in educating farmers and those in the chain of supply on the safe application of the chemicals on consumables in order mitigate the health hazards associated with haphazard use of pesticides.