KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7, 2015:Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (REACH) says fresh evidence has emerged about the prevalence of endosulfan residue in the rivers due to prevalent use of the pesticide in the region.
REACH president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy said the findings were based on results of water samples collected by teams from local universities over a period of three months from August last year.
He said this was alarming as endosulfan, which acted as a contact poison in a wide variety of insects and mites, was a highly acute toxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor and was banned in 2005 under the Pesticides Act 1974.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.
Ramasamy said the pesticide residue which remained in the soil from earlier applications were polluting water bodies through land run-off, leaching and ultimately contaminate drinking water sources.
He added that REACH had obtained evidence from doctors linking pesticide exposure to adverse health effects including elevated risks of several forms of cancer among Cameron Highlands residents.
REACH said it would explain its finding in a press conference in March, pending full laboratory results on the water samples.
“We are also awaiting results from universities in the Unites States which are capable of detecting different pesticide’s active ingredients accurately and precisely,” he said.
Pesticide use in agriculture had increased in tandem with the rapid growth of both legal and illegal farming in Cameron Highlands.
Pesticides are a standard part of most farming operations as it helps to kill, control, or repel insects, plant diseases, weeds, rodents and germs.
Ramasamy had previously warned that in addition to their inherent toxicity and widespread use, the use of illegal pesticides was increasing the threat to public health, especially infants and children who were particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of pesticides.
“Enforcement of bans on illegal pesticide is also lacking in effectiveness,” he said.
It is an offence to posses or to use a pesticide that is not registered in the Pesticides Act and those found guilty will be fined RM10,000.00 or a year’s imprisonment.
Ramasamy said after knowing what chemical was in the water and blood samples, and how much was detected, the authorities would be compelled to take action, including issuance of health advisory to the public.
The authorities would also need to make arrangements for a protected water supply which he said was lacking in Cameron Highlands due to unrestricted farming.
“There is cause for concern for the health of people especially children who drink tap water.
“The authorities will need to seek remedies to ensure the health of the public in the face of increasing threats to the region’s water supply.”
He said the presence of pesticide residues in water supply had long been suspected by REACH but research efforts were hampered by lack of grants.