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Regional News of Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Source: GNA

New visual guide to protect children from pesticides

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed a new visual guide to protect children from pesticides.

With the help of a new training guide, extension workers in Africa and elsewhere would be engaging with rural communities to reduce children's exposure to toxic pesticides used in farming.

Nearly 100 million boys and girls between five and 17 years old are engaged in child labour in agriculture, the ILO statistics revealed.

The FAO training guide, made available to the Ghana News Agency on Monday, said many were directly exposed to toxic chemicals while working on the farm; but “children are also exposed when they help with family chores or play and through the food they eat and the water they drink”.

It said children were far more sensitive to pesticides than adults and exposure could result in acute poisoning and sickness immediately after contact; but often, it also had longer-term, chronic impacts on their health and development.

The guide said limiting pesticide use and the promotion of non-toxic alternatives were important for reducing exposure, but education was equally crucial.

The FAO and ILO's new visual guide dubbed; “Protect Children from Pesticides” provides an easy accessible training tool.

It helps agricultural extension workers, rural educators, labour Inspectors and producer organizations in teaching farmers and their families on how to identify and minimise risks at home and on farms; they also learn how to recognize and respond to signs of toxic exposure.

It said the user-friendly guide had three main modules: how children were exposed to pesticides, what the health risks were and why children were particularly vulnerable, and what could be done to reduce those risks.

"The tool was initially developed in Mali, where it is now widely used by extension workers, farmer field schools, labour inspectors and producer s", said Rob Vos, Director of FAO's Social Protection Division.

"Its use is also expanding in Niger and other African countries. We are seeing growing interest from other regions. The guide is not only raising awareness that something must be done, but also showing what needs to be done,” he said.

The effort to adapt the visual guide and promote its wider use is being supported by the Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibility in relation to imports of hazardous chemicals.

The FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme jointly serve as the Secretariat for the convention.

"This is a good example of how the normative work of a convention can contribute to reaching out to the most vulnerable groups and make a difference to their lives" according to Christine Fuell, FAO's Coordinator for the Rotterdam Convention.

"The colourful illustrations are built on local knowledge and refer to very concrete and real situations, such that, they also appeal to children, raising their own awareness of the risks posed by pesticides,” she said.

The guide indicated that: Children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure for various biological and behavioural reasons.

It said “children breathe in more air than adults and so take in more dust, toxic vapours, and droplets of spray; and relative to their body weight, children need to eat and drink more than adults, and if food was contaminated, they absorb more toxins.

The surface area of a child's skin per unit of body mass is greater than that of an adult and their skins are more delicate.

“All these factors can lead to greater absorption of chemicals, and children's organs are less able to detoxify pesticides because they are not yet fully developed, according to the guide.

“Young children often play on the ground, put things in their mouths and were attracted to colourful containers, all common behaviours that increase risk,” the report stated.