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Lessons from Peru

How on earth can anyone expect careful handling of a dangerous chemical in a remote, poor village? Bharati Chaturvedi probes.

tech reviews Updated: Feb 16, 2006 14:56 IST

In California, the Pesticide Action Network International has just brought out a study that asks all of us some hard questions about the way pesticides are affecting children. Central to the study is an incident in 1999, in the mountain village of Tauccamarca, in Peru. Twenty-four children, half of the total children enrolled in the school, died when they drank an accidentally contaminated milk substitute. The poisonous substance was Methyl parathion, sold by Bayer in Peru as Folidol.

The pesticide should never have been available in the first place. How on earth can anyone expect careful handling of a dangerous chemical in a remote, poor village?

A congressional investigation blamed the government and Bayer, the company that marketed the pesticide. But even now, the central concern has not been addressed: how do we ensure that this never happens again?

It's time for us to pause for a while as we celebrate Christmas — the birthday of a child who changed the foundations of human society forever. Centuries later, even as many of the world's inhabitants bow and pray to one child, they fail to protect thousands of others.

In California, the Pesticide Action Network International has just brought out a study that asks all of us some hard questions about the way pesticides are
affecting children. Central to the study is an incident in 1999, in the mountain village of Tauccamarca, in Peru. Twenty-four children, half of the total children enrolled in the school, died when they drank an accidentally contaminated milk substitute. The poisonous substance was Methyl parathion, sold by Bayer in Peru as Folidol. The pesticide should never have been available in the first place. How on earth can anyone expect careful handling of a dangerous chemical in a remote, poor village?

A congressional investigation blamed the government and Bayer, the company that market- ed the pesticide. But even now, the central concern has not been addressed: how do we ensure that this never happens again? It's time for us to pause for a while as we celebrate Christmas — the birthday of a child who changed the foundations of human society forever. Centuries later, even as many of the world's inhabitants bow and pray to one child, they fail to protect thousands of others.

(If you feel for planet Earth, write toearthwatch1@yahoo.co.in)