The Agriculture Ministry has accepted the recommendations of a committee on how
to reduce public exposure to organophosphates, the Health Ministry said on
Wednesday, and the two ministries will implement them.
jointly formed the committee following studies showing that the chemicals cause
An organophosphate is the general name for esters of
phosphoric acid. The chemicals are the basis of many insecticides, herbicides,
solvents, plasticizers and nerve gases, and the US Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) lists them as acutely toxic to humans, wildlife and bees. Recent
studies suggest a possible link to adverse effects in the neurobehavioral
development of fetuses and children, even at very low levels of
While they can affect anyone who is exposed, organophosphates
affect primarily agricultural workers. Studies carried out around the world
involved the cognitive and behavioral effects on children who had been exposed
to the chemicals over a significant period while in the womb. They are mostly
children of women working in agriculture, or urban women who were exposed
through home use.
In 2007, the EPA decided to prohibit home use of
insecticides containing chlorpyrifos and diazinon; in 2009, the Agriculture
Ministry barred the use of such substances in decorative and home
Now the two ministries have decided to bar completely the use of
three organophosphates – parathion methyl, isofenfos-methyl and acephate – and
to reduce the use of seven others. That decision will go into effect in two
months, and by March 2014, the prohibition will extend to a wider variety of
The government continues to test crop samples for
organophosphates – from the field to the market. The two ministries are in full
cooperation, as each one has different responsibilities, the Health Ministry
The Health Ministry, which tested organophosphate residues in
foods, said it had not found health risks to consumers who ate food products
with such residues. But when dealing with such chemicals, the ministry said it
wanted to be especially careful, so it ordered a reduction in their use for
Nevertheless, the ministry recommended eating
well-washed fruits and vegetables in their edible skins and produced with a
variety of natural colors.
People who eat fresh produce regularly, it
said, have a lower risk of suffering from a variety of chronic diseases, from
stroke to cancer.
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