Communities of practice
The EU’s Nasty Bite: How the EU’s new pesticide regulations will harm the fight against malaria
20 Jan 2009
A report published by the organization Campaign for Fighting Diseases says that a new ban by the European Union on the use of several insecticides will hold back the fight against malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
The ban is motivated by concerns that some insecticides can potentially damage both the environment and human health. The 14-page report explains that – in its new ‘Thematic Strategy on Pesticides: Regulation concerning the placement of plant protection products on the market’ – the EU is moving from a regulation system that involves ‘risk assessment’ to one that is based on ‘hazard’ alone. Risk assessment takes into account the quantities of active ingredient to which humans or the environment are exposed. In contrast, the new regulations do not consider exposure levels.
The agricultural use, in Europe, of organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids and ethylenebisdithiocarbamates will all be affected by the legislation. Most of the 12 insecticides recommended by WHO for use in vector control fall into these categories, including DDT, malathion and deltamethrin.
Most insecticides are used in agriculture and only 1% are used in public health programmes against vector-borne disease. Manufacturers are therefore heavily dependent on sales to the agricultural market. They are unlikely to continue producing pesticides the use of which is restricted to vector control. They will also have less incentive to undertake research and development of potential new insecticides.
The report says: “The proposed legislation is arbitrary and capricious: it would prevent people in poor countries from using technologies that are unambiguously beneficial, with little or no benefit to humanity or the environment.”
The availability of several important insecticides could be threatened by the new rules. Organophosphates, for example, are widely used for control of Aedes aegypti, the principal vector of dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Pyrethroids are used to control the vectors of a number of infectious diseases, including Chagas’ disease and dengue. Cypermethrin, permethrin and lamba-cyhalothrin, all used in the treatment of bednets, are also amongst the range of pyrethroids that could be banned. Deltamethrin, used in bednet treatment and indoor residual spraying (IRS), could also be prohibited. So could insecticides that are used against other disease-carrying pests, such as flies, fleas, lice, cockroaches, ticks and mites.
However, of greatest concern is the threat to the availability of insecticides used in malaria control, either in bednet treatment or IRS.
Over 160 senior scientists from around the world have signed a petition against the proposed EU amendments, expressing their concerns that the legislation will undermine public health in less developed countries. The new rules have also been opposed by those who argue that they will lead to lower agricultural productivity and higher food prices.
Note: The report was published a few days before the vote by the European Parliament on the new pesticide rules. However, the EU has now voted (13th January) in favour of the regulations – see the following BBC news reports:
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