Is there evidence of a link between pesticide residues contamination of soil and water with the increasing rates of cancer?
The month of September is here and with it the Libras are in their element…doing a balancing act…and avoiding closed places…they need fresh air…
There is palpable fear and consternation…people are asking what is causing this sudden increase in cancer deaths? The causes are multi-factorial and associated with long term exposure to a myriad of causative factors which include environmental toxins, in general and specifically, toxic agrochemicals; these include organochoride(OCP) and organophosphate pesticides(OPP).
- An example of an OCP pesticide is DDT, which although banned is, still in use in Kenya, while an example of an OPP pesticide is Roundup, the common Weed Killer.
- Do we have any local evidence of soil contamination with these harmful pesticides which have been directly linked to cancers? Yes we do, as highlighted below.
- The latest study showing evidence of toxic organochorides, including DDT and Lindane, in our soils was just published in August, 2019 and shows presence of these toxic pesticides: The Daily Nation News story: https://news-af.dailyactive.info/news/detail/2a5db0ac8b2485b6362690a2b7c9ea00?features and next link is the original scientific paper as published by Teresa Mungai et al in collaboration with partners from the Chinese Academy of Sciences(CAS): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335198819_Occurrence_and_Toxicological_Risk_Evaluation_of_Organochlorine_Pesticides_from_Suburban_Soils_of_Kenya
- These studies show a higher than acceptable levels of soils contamination with these harmful pesticides in areas around Kapsabet(with high levels of DDT), Nyeri and Voi(with high levels of Lindane). Concurrent with these high levels, based on hospital records, epidemiological study findings and anecdotal findings, these locations have reported higher incidences and prevalence of cancers.
- Is there any further evidence of soil and water contamination? Yes: In 2001, Shem Wandiga(UoN) published findings of pesticide contamination of the OCP category. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Use-and-distribution-of-organochlorine-pesticides.-Wandiga/94a0c0147ae2a66e0320036580006a1f4392ca79
- In 2002; Gitahi et al published similar OCP pesticide contamination in the greater Lake Naivasha : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5959953/ and
- In 2016, Osoro et al also published similar findings of soil and water contamination with these cancer causing pesticides, in the Rusinga Islands of Lake Victoria: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313064465_Organochlorine_Pesticides_Residues_in_Water_and_Sediment_from_Rusinga_Island_Lake_Victoria_Kenya
- Most recently, Daniel Maingi, of Kenya Food Alliance, in collaboration with other partners, including the University of Nairobi School of Public Health, has featured in a documentary film which demonstrates the presence of these toxic chemicals not only in the soils and water but also in commonly consumed vegetables, like kale. Here is the youtube link to the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=50&v=yyjPsY6yCnQ
What is the way forward towards addressing this public health and environmental menace?
- Firstly, we need to ensure that policy makers, the legislators and regulatory and enforcement agencies are made aware of these linkages and the dangers that toxic pesticides, especially those banned in countries where they are manufactured: These pose grave danger and harm to the health of our soils, plants, and the citizenry.
- Secondly, leadership, at the highest political level, needs to make the connection between these harmful pesticides and their INCREASED use, in African countries, Kenya included. Use of these pesticides will increase if GMO seed technology is adopted. Towards that end, we applaud President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda for his decision to reject the GMO technology push and instead advise a precautionary approach which recognizes the inherent risks and dangers of these biotechnologies to our environment, including our soils and our health. As part of regional advocacy, find AFSA’s letter of appreciation on the same: http://www.pmldaily.com/oped/2019/09/afsa-open-letter-of-appreciation-to-president-of-the-republic-of-uganda.html
- As world citizens, who care for the future of humanity and the environment and who subscribe to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), we are obligated to continue with evidence based advocacy to create awareness among the policymakers and other stakeholders, including consumers, on the inherent dangers of reckless and increased use of these toxic agrochemicals and their links to increasing cancers.
- Here is a link to concerned farmers demanding that some of these toxic pesticides, like glyphosate aka Roundup, be banned: https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/nakuru/Firm-wants-herbicide-linked-to-cancer-banned/1183314-5230224-v7bo9/index.html
And finally, here is a link to on-going efforts being made by the author of this article to ‘add his voice” to the advocacy agenda for a safer and healthier world for all,…”leaving no one behind”. http://epaper.peopledaily.co.ke/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=2d11dca3-13c2-4add-9dc1-cee781ba2925