A World Health Organisation study submits that national bans on highly hazardous pesticides can be a cost-effective and affordable intervention for reducing suicide in countries with a high burden of suicides attributable to pesticides.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Global Health on Friday, found that restricting access to hazardous pesticides was an effective approach of preventing suicide.
The study examined the cost-effectiveness of implementing a population-based, suicide prevention intervention in low- and middle-income countries which involved 14 countries spanning low-income to high-income settings.
The authors concluded that banning highly hazardous pesticides across those 14 countries could result in a total of approximately 28,000 fewer suicide deaths each year at an annual cost of I$ 0·0071 (or less than a cent) per capita.
According to the authors, this decrease equates to a potential 6·5 per cent reduction in suicide deaths among these 14 countries by 2030.
“Bans were found to be more cost-effective in countries where a high proportion of suicides are attributable to pesticide poisoning, reaching a cost-effectiveness ratio of I$ 75 per healthy life year gained in two countries in which more than 30 per cent of suicides were from pesticide poisoning.
“The intervention was estimated to be more cost-effective in low-income and lower-middle-income countries (at I$ 94 per HLYG) than in upper-middle-income and high-income countries (at I$ 237 per HLYG).
“However, the study findings are limited by imperfect data and assumptions that could be improved upon by future studies.
“More research is required to quantify the assumptions made in this model, including the potential for substitution of means and the effect on agricultural yields”, the authors said.
According to WHO, suicide is a major global public health issue, resulting in 800,000 deaths every year across the world.
“Pesticide self-poisoning accounts for 14-20 per cent of global suicides and is particularly common in low-income and middle-income countries where small-scale farming enables easy access to highly hazardous pesticides” , the UN health agency said.
The study found that restricting access to commonly used, high-lethality suicide methods – a form of means restriction – is one of the few effective approaches to preventing suicide.
It revealed that bans of just a few highly hazardous pesticides in Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka resulted in communities having access to less toxic pesticides and led to sharp reductions in overall suicide rates.
The study added, “These pesticide bans did not prevent people from attempting suicide; they simply made subsequent suicide attempts much less lethal, thereby lowering the suicide rate.
“Empirical evidence from these countries also shows that such bans do not necessarily lead to reductions in agricultural productivity.”
The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and WHO, recommends that highly hazardous pesticides should be removed from agriculture in low- and middle-income countries where they cannot be stored or used without unacceptable risk.
In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control had in July 2019 announced the ban on sale of sniper and other brands of agricultural formulations of Dichlorvos following rampant suicide cases and misuse of the products.
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, had said sniper and other related products would not be sold in supermarkets and in the open markets.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, a fumigation expert, Hameed Olugbode, said though sniper and some other harmful chemicals have been banned in Nigeria due to their wrong use, some quacks are still using them to fumigate.
Olugbode said, “There are some banned chemicals that the quacks are using that are injurious to health. Sniper has been banned for fumigation for many years now, but people are still using it to fumigate.
“The way and manner that most people carry out fumigation, you will know that they don’t have the requisite knowledge and this will automatically affect the health of the people.
“Time frame for the chemicals is important. Some chemicals used in fumigation are dangerous to health and some of these quacks don’t care. All they want is their money.”
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