Environmental Exposures, Health Effects and Institutional Determinants of Pesticide Use in Two Tropical Settings

What are the environmental, health and regulatory dimensions of pesticide use in agriculture in low- and middle-income countries?

Project Summary

Pesticides are intensively used in agriculture worldwide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the tropics have the highest annual average application rates of pesticides. Although it is well established that pesticide exposure accounts for considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide, only few studies from LMICs have determined the associated burden of disease, examined exposure pathways and investigated risk factors. In addition, the lack of a thorough understanding of government policies and institutional determinants hampers the implementation of integrated pest management.
This interdisciplinary research project, combining environmental monitoring and epidemiological studies, with institutional and policy analyses, aims to generate a deep understanding of the environmental, health and regulatory dimensions of pesticide use in two agricultural settings in Costa Rica and Uganda.

The underlying assumption of the project is that extensive application of pesticides, poor training, inadequate equipment and insufficient regulation result in increased exposure to pesticides, and consequently in elevated incidence of pesticide-related adverse health outcomes in farm workers. A particular focus of this project is on exposure routes to pesticides and associated risk factors. It is anticipated that in tropical areas differences in meteorological conditions, pesticide applications, dependency of ecosystem products and services, and institutional factors result in exposure pathways and risk factors that differ from those of developed countries in temperate climate zones.

Through the combination of environmental studies, epidemiology, public health and institutional analysis, this project will gain insights into different pesticide exposure routes and facilitate the translation of the research findings into setting-specific interventions and policy recommendations.

Academic Output

Working Paper

Environmental exposures, health effects and institutional determinants of pesticide use in two tropical settings (PESTROP)

The central objective of this research project was to assess the misfits between pesticide use-related environmental exposure, human health effects, and institutional determinants in two tropical agricultural settings and to identify what changes in pesticide application and policy were needed to efficiently reduce human and environmental exposure to pesticides.

We investigated this overarching question in a comparative approach in two study areas located in Costa Rica and Uganda by addressing the following specific problems:

  • To what degree are water resources in agricultural settings contaminated with pesticides and which types of pesticides contribute the most?
  • Which are the main exposure pathways, risk determinants, and cumulative factors resulting in health effects due to pesticide use?
  • What are the differences in pesticide-related health effects in small-scale farm workers with different levels of exposure?
  • What policy design, competence allocation, and user right definitions are needed for the creation of an integrated IRR that efficiently reduces human and environmental exposure to pesticides?
  • What interventions for reducing environmental and human exposure to pesticides at the local level are needed and how can national regulation support these?

Executive Summary

Pesticides are intensively used in agriculture worldwide. There is a lack of studies that jointly assess human and environmental health effects of pesticide use and how use practices are influenced by the institutional context. The central objective of the PESTROP project was to assess the misfits between pesticide use-related environmental exposure, human health effects, and institutional determinants in two tropical agricultural settings and to identify what changes in pesticide application and policy were needed to efficiently reduce human and environmental exposure to pesticides.

We identified a miss-fit between policy design and local pesticide application resulting in environmental and human exposure to pesticides. Even though the institutional arrangement in both countries is rather complete and effective on paper, the link to the target groups and farm workers is missing. As interviews with farmers and farm workers showed, problem awareness and the accessibility or affordability of protective measures is widely lacking. These observations were confirmed during the restitution activities. Many stakeholders expressed the view that pesticides were considered an important topic and that they support a broader approach to tackle the problem at a national level.

Research Team

Mirko Winkler
Coordinator
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Karin Ingold
Co-Coordinator
University of Berne

Christian Stamm
Co-Coordinator
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology – Eawag

Samuel Fuhrimann
Principal Member
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Ana Maria Mora
Principal Member
Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica

Charles Niwagaba
Principal Member
Makerere University

Ruth Wiedemann
Principal Member
University of Bern

Philipp Staudacher
Principal Member
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology – Eawag

Junior Researchers
Costa Rica and Uganda

Frederik Weiss
Principal Member
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology – Eawag

Aggrey Atuhaire
Associated Member
Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health

Guéliado Cissé
Association Member
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institue

Mohamed Aqiel Dalvie
Associated Member
University of Cape Town

Rik Eggen
Associated Member
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)

Erik Jørs
Associated Member
Syddansk Universitet

Leslie London
Associated Member
University of Cape Town

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

Costa Rica, Uganda

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year