Pesticide Poisoning in Rural Cambodia
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Proper protective gear for the use of such hazardous chemicals, but the majority of the farmers are illiterate. They cannot read the safety warning labels printed in Thai or Vietnamese.


Pesticide Poisoning in Rural Cambodia Male: We've made it across the border out of Cambodia. We are now in the main road out of Poipet, leading to Sisophon. In Sisophon we’ll see our first sites and see our first --. Female: Chinese New Year in Sisophon. It didn’t stop farmers attending a workshop that extension worker Iam Bhutang and epidemiologist, Helen Murphy try to assess the numbers of people experiencing the symptoms indicating pesticide poisoning. Helen: I've been working in all over these countries and the first exercise I do with farmers is I say, what you think the signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning are. Please think about only things that you, yourself have experienced and I’ve really have been quite impressed in Cambodia. They will give me practically all the symptoms that we know about. 40% of farmers that I've talked will say “Yes, I have experienced vomiting” and I consider that moderate poisoning. The point really is not to produce decimal perfect data. The point is for farmers to have self-discovery, to understand the health effects by observing and doing their own studies among each other. So they understand the total amount of exposure they are getting and that’s the real important ideas. But it turns out I think some of the data is fairly valid. Male: We are now entering village about 20 kilometers east of Sisophon. In here we will see Helen and Bhutang working with farmers to observe other farmers handling highly toxic pesticide. I think this would begin to dispel the myth that these chemicals, these poisons could be handled safely by farmers under actual conditions in rural areas. Female: They asked what -- is using and about the labels. He can't read. -- accompanied by another farmer trainer goes with -- to the field. They need to check he has no symptoms, so go through a checklist before he sprays. -- guesses that the label is saying he must wear gloves. It’s academic because he doesn’t own a pair. With no protection his mixing highly toxic cocktail including two brands of Methyl parathion, folidol and crypside both category 1-A. -- drenches he’s vegetables several times, washing out the spray in the community pond. He's oblivious to the danger methyl parathion and other so-called organo phosphates exposed to the nerves in his body. Helen: Organo phosphates primarily affect your nervous system. And so basically, what they do is interrupt nerve transmission. Starting from the top, you get central nervous system problems where you get irritability, insomnia, vomiting, trouble walking. You have in coordination, staggering, ataxia, excessive sweating, -- shortness of breath, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. And finally, you're skeletal muscles discloses the muscle cramps and extreme muscle weakness and fatigue. Female: Despite -- soaking, -- does not admit to any immediate symptoms. Helen: A lot of farmers tell us that they developed a certain tolerance. When they first started spraying, they say “Oh yes, I get lots of symptoms” and then after a while they say “Oh I get strong and I get used to it”. And then suddenly out of nowhere, they will really get sick. And thereafter, they're very, very sensitive to hypersensitive. Female: As symptoms can occur over night, we return the next morning. -- is cheerful and joking. So far, he seems healthy. -- still takes time explaining to him about the dangers of what he’s doing. Afterwards, he picks the vegetables for market. Male: This leaf crop sprayed just 14 hours ago is now on its way to the market. It’s now the consumers turn. This is a short duration leaf crop which could probably get by with little or no pesticides. If we look closely now, the spray was being applied to get rid of a small beetle which makes small holes in the leaves. This beetle is still alive and well despite the application of the cocktail. This is our first stop at a market in Cambodia. You see how pesticides are actually retailed. It’s actually rather interesting. We have the usual suspects followed over a perimeter. Lock first which are the legal and still sealed chemicals from major companies in Thailand. Most of what we’re seeing is in its original packages coming from Thailand and Vietnam. The cost of the glove is roughly a dollar. If the farmers only earning a $125.00 a year, this is three days profit.