Scientists from the University of Copenhagen (U.C.) and several other schools, led by U.C. School of Global Health Professor Flemming Konradsen, compiled two separate studies on pesticide-induced suicide that they published in The Lancet. What these studies reveal is that existing laws governing the sale and storage of pesticides are simply ineffective at stopping people from killing themselves by consuming them.
One of the papers looked specifically at pesticide storage standards in rural Asia, which is seeing some of the world's highest rates of pesticide-induced suicide. This cluster-randomized controlled trial involved testing newer, and more secure, storage tanks for pesticides that researchers hoped would lead to a decrease in suicide rates – but there was no observable change or improvement.
"For four years, we developed and tested products to find the best, most secure form of storage for toxic pesticides," Konradsen explained about the study's methodology.
"Our final product was a waterproof barrel made of specially hardened plastic that can be buried in the ground. It was so tough that an elephant could stamp on it without it breaking. The barrel was double locked and buried in the farmers' garden or field," he added.
The waterproof barrels were tested in 90 different villages with high pesticide use throughout Sri Lanka, with a collective total population of 110,000 people. Another 90 villages with a collective population of around 114,000 people were used as a comparative control, using old pesticide storage methods.
"Even with the very best and safest storage we were capable of developing, there was no significant change," Konradsen added. "We cannot reduce the number of suicides using this approach."
In the second study, Konradsen and his team evaluated 27 studies from 16 different countries that investigated how pesticide regulation might curb the suicide rate. Twelve of these studies looked specifically at how national pesticide bans affect suicide rates, revealing that pesticide prohibition is the most effective way to reduce the number of pesticide-associated suicides.
"In five of the countries, a reduction in the number of suicides involving pesticides was observed following a ban," a press release on the study explains. "In three of the countries, the general suicide rate also fell."
Increased restrictions on pesticide sales also demonstrated some positive impacts, leading to suicide reductions in just over half of the countries evaluated. However, Konradsen warns that the studies were of too poor quality to be used for a conclusory assessment.
The best solution, he says, is to flat-out ban the most toxic pesticides – or, heck, ban them all! Based on his extensive research into the matter, prohibition is really the only way to keep noxious chemicals away from people who might try to use them to harm or kill themselves.
"We need to take action if we are going to address this problem," Konradsen says. "So I hope that these research results can provide a knowledge base for the people who can make decisions about bans and restrictions."
For more related news, check out Pesticide.news.
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