Toxic pesticides found in residents living near Davao City pineapple plantations

Workers unload fresh pineapples from the farm of the Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation (Davco) in Calinan, Davao City. MiindaNews File Photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 February) – Traces of highly toxic agricultural pesticides were found in the dust and urine samples collected from residents living near the vast pineapple plantations in Baguio District here, a study conducted by South Korea’s Wonjin Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health showed.

Speaking during the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, Lemuel Lloyd Manalo, program coordinator for Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), Inc., said the study was conducted last year to find out what kinds of contaminants are affecting the residents there.

Based on the study, the highest concentration of pesticides, particularly pyrethroid and organophosphorus, were detected in the dust samples and metabolites in the urine samples of residents living within a 20- to 30-meter radius from the pineapple farms.

“Our advocacy still continues to fight for their rights for clean air and livability of these places. Our farmers living in rural districts deserve to have rights for clean air. They are affected by nearby agricultural plantations,” he said.

The study found presence of other chemicals such as diazinon, malathion and chlorpyrifos, and traces of parathion, a banned pesticide in the Philippines. These were detected in both dust and urine samples.

Manalo said higher concentrations of those chemicals were found in the samples taken from residents within the 20- to 30-meter radius compared with samples taken from individuals residing within the 500-meter and one-kilometer radius.

He noted the scope of their study was limited only to the immediate environs of the pineapple plantation operated by the Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation  (DAVCO) and other nearby pineapple farms owned by growers supplying their produce to Sumifru Philippines Corporation.

MindaNews tried but failed to get comments from those companies as of press time.

Manalo said the toxins from agricultural monocrop plantations pose health risks not only to the farmers but also to their families, particularly children.

He stressed that environmental advocates are alarmed by the result of the study considering that these monocrop plantations, particularly export pineapples, are situated close to the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed, the city’s next source of drinking water.

Dr. Won Kim, Wonjin Institute director for research, said the contaminants might have been drifted by wind from the plantations to the households.

“Maybe, the farmers are directly exposed to pesticides but their children or spouses are not involved in the spraying. But the level of pesticides in their urine, we confirmed, is high,” he said.

He said the source could either be indoor environmental contamination from agricultural pesticides or consumption of contaminated food.

Won noted that exposure to chlorpyrifos, for instance, can cause headache, diarrhea and Parkinson’s disease.

He said the chemical could also impair cognitive functions among children.

He said four non-government organizations in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have been tapped to participate in the study.

Through the study, the group processed 700 samples and detected 125 pesticides, 66 of which are classified as “highly hazardous” that could cause diseases, including cancer.

The study was conducted with the support of the Korea Financial Industry Foundation, a press statement said.

It said the IDIS is one of the participating organizations in the campaign and collected urine and dust samples from agricultural communities in the vicinity of the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)