Ministries move to reduce organophosphates

While they can affect anyone who is exposed, organophosphates affect primarily agricultural workers.

Crops receive herbicide treatment 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Crops receive herbicide treatment 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
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.
The ministries jointly formed the committee following studies showing that the chemicals cause health damage.
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 exposure.
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 gardens.
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 organophosphates.
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 stated.
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 food-related purposes.
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.