September 19, 2020

The Editor Speaks:l Why don’t we ban Paraquat?


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In the Cayman Islands we normally follow many of the regulations that are in place and ones that come in force. We are a British Overseas Territory after all. We are very close to the USA and we also follow their leads.

If a product in either country has a problem, a minute trace of a poison for instance, it is withdrawn with much publicity.

There has been much publicity in the thirty years I have lived here with a herbicide that has been and is still in common use on all three of our islands. Every year we hear cases of our pets, especially cats and dogs, dying from this herbicide that is toxic and there is no antidote. The miracle is no human has died from it but it is not a question of it might happen but when it WILL happen.

Breathing in this herbicide may cause lung damage and can lead to a disease that affects the lung. The herbicide causes damage to the body when it touches the lining of the mouth, stomach, or intestines. You can get sick even if it touches a cut on your skin. It also damages the kidneys, liver, and esophagus.

If the herbicide is swallowed, death can rapidly occur. Death may occur from a hole in the esophagus, or from acute inflammation of the mediastinum, the area that surrounds the major blood vessels and airways in the middle of the chest. Even a single swig, immediately spat out, can cause death.

Chronic exposure to the herbicide may cause pulmonary fibrosis, a stiffening of the lung tissue.

All the above is applicable to adult humans. In a child even the smallest amount is often lethal. In an animal it is always lethal. The death is as painful as any death can be. It can be fast, if you take a lot but usually it is very slow – 30 days is quite normal. Even two teaspoons full is enough to kill. Whether the death is fast or slow it is very painful. Soon after swallowing, sufferers will experience lesions and pains in the mouth and stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and blood in faeces. Within two to three days they will see reduced urine volume and jaundice, a cough, difficulty in breathing, lung oedema (swelling), convulsions, coma and thankfully, finally death.

It has now been linked to the cause of Parkinson’s disease. People who have used the pesticide have developed Parkinson’s disease 2.5 times more than non-users. (Source ScienceDaily-Feb14, 2011).

The toxic herbicide is marketed under the name of ‘Gramoxone’ by the main distributor Syngenta. The most common name for it is Paraquat.

Paraquat is a herbicide that is quick-acting, it kills a wide range of annual grasses and broad-leaved weeds and the tops of established perennial weeds, It is rain-fast within minutes of application and becomes biologically inactive upon contact with soil. It is cheap to produce.

That is why it is widely used. That is why it is responsible for a huge proportion of the more than 250,000 deaths that occur from pesticide poisoning every year.

The UK has banned the use of Paraquat and so has the European Union. In the USA its use is now rare as it is licensed. It also has a blue dye in it in order to keep it being confused with beverages such as coffee. It also has a sharp odour which also serves as a safeguard and it includes an agent that causes vomiting.

None of these safeguards nor the outright banning of Paraquat has been instituted here in the Cayman Islands. The warnings given out where this product is easily bought from the Government Agricultural Department are woeful.

On our site is a story and petition to ban Paraquat in the Cayman Islands. I urge you to sign it.

Dogs are being deliberately poisoned here almost every week. Will it take action by the Cayman Island government only after a human has died and the human most likely at risk is a child?

Why don’t we take action before this happens. Ban Paraquat now.

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