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A Toxics-Free Future

Pesticide Action Network Press Release: Highly Toxic Pesticides Contamination in Cameron Highlands

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Press Release
For immediate release
Please contact: Deeppa Ravindran, (mobile) 017 4007968 or (office) 04 – 657 0271 or
Cameron Highlands (6th March 2015) – Widely banned pesticides known to impact human health have been found in tap water and surface waters of rivers in Cameron Highlands, Pahang.  Endosulfan, endrine ketone, aldrin and DDE (a derivative of DDT) were found in five sampling sites conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at the Bertam and Terla rivers, as well as in the tap water in Brinchang town.
All are known as POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants, and regulated globally by the Stockholm Convention to which Malaysia is a signatory.
Endosulfan for instance, has already been banned in Malaysia, the European Union and many other countries for several years now. As a POP, it accumulates in the food chain and in humans, travels long distances from the place where it was used, and breaks down very slowly in the environment.
Impact of Persistent Organic Pollutants
POPs tend to have high lipid solubility, hence bioaccumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms, and are measurable several months to several years after exposure. Some of the known POPs are also known endocrine disruptors in that they mimic the function of natural hormones, potentially leading to disruption of the endocrine system in both animals and humans. These disruptions can cause birth defects, developmental disorders, cancer, reproductive problems and a wide range of other impacts on health, including obesity, diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.
Since 2013, Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific has consistently highlighted the dangers associated with the usage of highly hazardous pesticides, specifically in Cameron Highlands. Due to the concerns for food safety and potential harm to human health, water testing for pesticides residue was conducted by University Kebangsaan Malaysia from August – December 2014.
The findings reveal that the highest concentration of pesticides residue was found in Terla River, specifically from areas facing intensive agricultural activities. This gives rise to two scenarios; one where toxic pesticides were used in the past and their residues have leached from the soil and contaminated the water; and second, some of these banned pesticides are still being used for agriculture.  Therefore, we have much cause for concern because Cameron Highlands is a main producer and supplier of vegetables and fruits for local and international markets.
“Endosulfan, well known to have caused devastating birth defects and cancers in India, is now listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for a total global phase out. A few countries are still phasing it out, but in countries such as Malaysia where it is already banned there should be no more use of it, at all. Any use poses great risk to people who use it, live or work nearby, eat contaminated food, or who use water from the rivers, because even very tiny amounts of an endocrine disruptor can affect, especially, the development of children and the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific.
Need for further testing
Although this study did not include the testing of food for pesticides residue, it is a matter of public safety and interest for consumers to be aware of the levels of pesticides residue present. “We urge the relevant authorities to take the necessary steps to make this information available to consumers in order for them to make informed decisions. In addition to this, researchers and competent authorities need to conduct more investigations to determine pesticides contamination in Cameron Highlands,” said Sarojeni Rengam the Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific. 
It is also necessary to question the use of pesticides which have immense implications for human health and the environment. There is a wealth of scientific and evidential data showing that crops can be grown well without using pesticides. “When endosulfan was listed under the Stockholm Convention, all countries agreed that in replacing it, the priority should be ecosystem approaches to pest management, such as agroecology,” reiterates Dr. Meriel Watts.
Urgent action is also needed to raise awareness and cease the use of highly hazardous pesticides, particularly of banned products which are linked to long term adverse effects such as cancers, hormonal disruption and those that undermine children’s health and intelligence. A global movement is underway to phase-out highly hazardous pesticides and Malaysia needs to be part of it. PANAP strongly recommends that the government enforces the legislation banning pesticides, where banned pesticides appear to be still in use, as in Cameron Highlands; and that policies be developed to phase-out other highly hazardous pesticides replacing them with ecosystem approaches instead of other toxic chemicals.