Pesticide Poisoning in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a country slightly larger than Montana and is located in the southern end of Africa between South Africa and Zambia. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), it has a tropical climate with a population density that consists of 12,619,600 people (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012). Also, the birth rate in Zimbabwe is 32.19 for every 1,000 people in the population, and the death rate is 12.38 for every 1,000 people in the population. Additionally, the infant mortality rate is 28.23 deaths in every 100,000 births. Zimbabwe citizens should expect to live about fifty-two years (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012). Their government is a parliamentary democracy in which the prime minister has the greatest representation in the government” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012). We are all familiar with the constant threat of infectious diseases in Africa, but there are other hazards that citizens of this area face that are equally worrisome. One of these hazards is called pesticide poisoning, and it is a major concern for the citizens of Zimbabwe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” when used properly pesticide sprays increase crop production, preserve produce, combat insect infestations, and control exotic species” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). However, if safety measures are not enforced and these products are not adequately regulated, they may result in Acute Pesticide Poisoning, or APP. The CDC tells us that “agricultural workers, groundskeepers, pet groomers, fumigators, and a variety of other occupations are at risk for exposure to pesticides…” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also points out that “malnutrition and dehydration increase a person’s sensitivity to pesticides” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004). This is one of the reasons that APP is more frequent in developing countries, like Zimbabwe, where people are more likely to be suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. According to a study published on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) website, pesticide poisoning had an incidence rate of 914 in Zimbabwe alone from the year 1998 to 1999 (Tagwireyi, Ball, & Nhachi, 2006 ). One may be surprised to find that of these 914 cases, fifty-eight percent were deliberate self-poisonings compared to twenty-seven percent accidental self-poisonings (Tagwireyi et al., 2006). However, the World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that “many individuals and workers who experience health effects from APP may never present to a health-care provider due to distance from a medical facility, lack of resources, economic factors, fear of job loss or other reasons” (Thundiyil, Stober, Besbelli, & Pronczuk, 2008). Symptoms of pesticide poisoning may vary depending on the level of exposure a person has experienced. According to the Agriculture and Rural Development organization, victims may experience anything from nausea, headache, and difficulty breathing to symptoms as severe as a coma (Agriculture and Rural Development, 2007). Since most of these symptoms are common, they can easily be attributed to another disease. This is supported by the WHO which tells us that “some health-care providers may be unaware of the relationship between pesticide and illnesses and fail to diagnose or report the incident properly”(Thundiyil et al., 2008). For this reason, the WHO tells us, “there are no reliable estimates as to how many people per year suffer from (and die due to) pesticide-related health effects” (Thundiyil et al., 2008).
Clearly, the high rate of APP cases is a major problem especially prominent in developing countries like Zimbabwe. However, there are methods that can be used to lower the number of at-risk people in Zimbabwe’s population. Our goal is to decrease the incidence rate of APP cases in Zimbabwe by enforcing regulation and basing it on human toxicity, rather than rat toxicity. Within five years, this will result in a ten percent decrease in the incidence rate of APP amongst the population of Zimbabwe. Although this is just one small step, by combining it with the help of other measures, we hope to eventually be able to completely eradicate, or greatly reduce this problem.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Pesticide illness & injury surveillance.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/
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Thundiyil, J.G., Stober, J., Besbelli, N., & Pronczuk, J. (2008). Acute pesticide poisoning: A proposed classification tool. World Health Organization, 86(3), 161-240. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/en/