Farm chemicals ban still in force, insist health officials

Farm chemicals ban still in force, insist health officials

Committee members refute industry minister's announcement

From left, Dr Narong Saiwongse, deputy permanent secretary for health, Dr Opart Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department, Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai, permanent secretary for health, and Dr Paisarn Dunkum, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, confirm the ban on three toxic farm chemicals, at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province on Thursday. (Public Health Ministry photo)
From left, Dr Narong Saiwongse, deputy permanent secretary for health, Dr Opart Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department, Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai, permanent secretary for health, and Dr Paisarn Dunkum, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, confirm the ban on three toxic farm chemicals, at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province on Thursday. (Public Health Ministry photo)

Public health authorities insisted on Thursday that the National Committee on Hazardous Substances neither lifted nor eased a ban on three toxic farm chemicals, as Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit had said.

Permanent secretary Sukhum Karnchanapimai and other senior health officials held a press conference at the ministry in Nonthaburi province on Thursday to refute Mr Suriya's announcement.

On Wednesday Mr Suriya told journalists at the Industry Ministry that the new National Committee on Hazardous Substances had decided unanimously that day to lift the scheduled ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the ban on the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos for six months from Dec 1.

"The Public Health Ministry stands firm that the three chemicals affect health and our standpoint is to insist on the previous resolution of the National Committee on Hazardous Substances on Oct 22, 2019 to ban the three chemicals," Dr Sukhum said.

He said doctors and nurses from provincial health offices and hospitals nationwide reported via a teleconference on Monday that more people were suffering from the chemicals.

"There were previously 45 cases treated in a year at Nan Hospital. Now it treats 25 patients a month," Dr Sukhum said.

He spoke of the danger of paraquat, saying a man died of liver failure a week after wind spilled paraquat solution on his trousers.

The residues of the chemicals were being found in vegetables and fruits and they contaminated the soil and water. People were consequently suffering from cancer and brain disease, and the contamination was transmitted from mothers to babies, Dr Sukhum said.

"The Public Health Ministry insists that public health is the priority, and we insist on keeping the previous resolution," he said.

Opart Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department, said glyphosate had been proved to stimulate breast cancer, and its residue was found in mothers and babies.

He also said that paraquat residue was being found at unsafe levels in cabbages, even though its use on that vegetable was banned. Cabbage from markets in Phitsanolok province contained 0.21 milligrammes per kilogramme in the samples tested this year. The accepted safe threshold was 0.01 milligrammes, he said.

"The contamination is 20 times more than the safe level," he said.

Dr Opart said that no one at Wednesday's meeting of the National Committee on Hazardous Substances raised a hand to revoke the Oct 22 resolution.

Dr Paisarn Dunkum, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, said that members of the National Committee on Hazardous Substances from the Public Health Ministry, including himself and Dr Opart, did not make any decision at the meeting on Wednesday, and they stood by the Oct 22 resolution.

Participants in Wednesday's meeting presented the health impacts of the three chemicals, he said.

Meanwhile, media reported that Jirapon Limpananon, chair of the Pharmacy Council of Thailand, announced her resignation from the National Committee on Hazardous Substances late Wednesday night.

She also said no members of the committee were asked to make a decision on Wednesday, and that she told the meeting that the three chemicals must be banned to protect people.


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