Use of Pesticide for Conservation of Dry Fish Continues

In 1991 the following article on use of pesticided for the conservation of dry fish was pubblished (Anwar, 1991) but nothing took place to stop this practice till today.

The recent use of DDT and Dichlorvos for the conservation of dry fish has created a alarming situation in Bangladesh ( Hossain 1991). Dry fish is the main source of protein in many areas of Bangladesh and recently exported abroad where the main consumers are immigrants and workers of the third world countries. The coastal area and several haros (Syleht district) of Bangladesh are famous for producing dry fish, which is dried under the sun from mid October to mid April. Since 1983-84 fish is first treated with dissolved boric powder and pesticides NOGOS Dichlorvos) and DDT respectively so that any insect can grow before the product reach to consumer (Hossain M.A.,Bangladesh Institute for Fish Research,1991). NOGOS is chlorinated phosphorous acid ester highly toxic insectide which destroys the function of nerve cells. The effect of cholinnesterase enzymes can result in heart attacks, stomach cramps and vomitting, excessive menustration and spontaneous abortion in women etc.

The poisoning effect, whether acute or chronic, is related simply to dose and duration. It is reported that only 50-100 milligram can cause human death (Fairchild 1978, M"cker 1988).It is further highly toxic to fish (death 1 mg/l/24 hours) and bird ( death 12-15 mg/kg). It is not imaginable to predict the result of one of the most man made hazards of this century. Most of the fishermen are ignorent and the goverment is not capable to monitor environmental policies.CIDA (1989) reports that environmental plans and priorities are conspicuous by their absence and where they exist they are inadequate, outdated or unforceful.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in U.K. since 1985 launched the "Dirty Dozen" campaign with the intention of stopping 12 particular controversial pesticides : 2,4,5-T, endrin, aldrin, paraquat, chlordane, lindane, DDT, campachlor, chlordimeform, ethylene dibromide, DBCP, dieldrin, ethyl parathion and pentachlorophenol.It is reported in the local press in Bangladesh that there is a wide spread distribution of banned pesticides, especially the highly toxic "Dirty Dozen".

There are also many pesticides sold in the market without names and pesticides are not true to the label. Unknown diluted varites rarely contain any instructions on health hazards are sold to unaware farmers, who use their naked hands to spray pesticides and preserve the rest on the floor along with vital household goods and use them for keeping drinking water and food (Erler 1985). Nobody can draw a statistic on pesticide casualities, althogh reports on deaths and sufferings or chronic effects are common in Bangladesh. Some analysis in Bangladesh show alarming pollutants in fish like DDT, DDE, DDD,heptachlor,lindaine, dieldrin, aldrin, heptachlorepoxiode, PCBs and mercury ( BCAS,Vl 2,1990).

There are any facilities that can monitor pesticides, pollutants control in Bangladesh. Any goverment regulation on Maximum Admissiable Concentration (MAC) or ban on illegal chemicals without modern laboratory facilities and increase awareness on sustainable environmental incentives will not bear any fruitful result (Bangladesh: The State of the Environment, 1991).

Dry fish posing health hazard in Narsingdi

Feb 17, 2005 : Dry fish, popularly known as 'shutki', is posing health hazard in Narsingdi district due to use of poisonous chemicals and insecticides at the time of processing.

So the fishermen dry these fishes in the traditional process by using the poisonous chemicals. In this system, the fishes are dried in sunshine first.Then salt in sufficient quantity is added. After drying the fishes, the poisonous chemicals, including DDT and different types of insecticides, are used to protect those from decomposition.
After processing in a traditional way, the dried fishes are sold in the wholesale markets of different makets.

It is posing a serious threat to the health of the people of the district. Some physicians said serious diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma and other infectious diseases may attack people, who are taking dry fish as a food item regularly. The fishes are caught from different rivers of the districts. The fishes included shrimp, chhuri, loittya, faissya, popa, bailla, laukkya, puti, elgona and fewa. These huge quantity of fishes are not easily sold in the markets.

Winter is the peak season for processing dry fish in the district. The peak season continues till the onset of the rainy season. Some fishermen become busy in the winter season for processing the fish. About 2,000 workers are directly involved in the processing work. Of them 40 percent are women. They are poorly paid. It may be mentioned that a modem type of industry named Gammatech was established in the Sagarika BSIC Industrial area in 1993 to process the dry fish and other perishable food items in scientific and hygienic system.

But the concerned people did not come forward to process their perishable goods in the modern scientific way. As a result, the industry faced a continuous loss since its inception forcing the authorities to close down it during the current month. Observers feel that the authorities should come forward to stop the traditional system of processing dry fish in order to save the sanitary condition of the people vulnerable to various diseases caused by taking food processed unhygienic way.

The business community said that the country might earn a huge amount of foreign currency by exporting such dry fishes processed in scientific method to the foreign countries every year. It may be mentioned that a small quantity of dry fish is now exported to foreign countries to the tune of about Taka 2,00 crores annually.The quantum of earning foreign currency may be increased further by taking special care in processing those scientifically.

The following report has been published by Daily Independent (February 19, 2005):

Dry fish hazard

An exclusive report printed on page 13 on Friday in The Independent would disappoint many connoisseur of dry fish dishes, so popular with a large segment of the populace of the country. The report tells us how fishermen in Narsingdi district use harmful chemicals including DDT and pesticides while turning fresh fish into dry fish through sun-drying. Once treated with these chemicals it takes considerably longer time for the bacteria to eat through the flesh of the fish, hence the loss becomes minimal in terms of money for the fishermen and retailers. But, these traders are oblivious of the damage these chemicals cause to human body when the treated dry fish is consumed regularly over a longer period of time. According to some local doctors people who consume dry fish quite regularly are reporting to them with various diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, asthma etc. but they are ignorant of what is causing these diseases.

The necessity to cultivate dry fish looms up when huge quantity of fresh fish caught everyday in the nearby rivers remain unsold because of shortage of customers. Such huge catch of fish cannot be sent to the towns or the metropolis on a daily basis either for shortage of transport or fish traders not willing to pay the right amount of money. Winter is considered to be the peak season for processing dry fish, which continues until monsoon sets in.

According to the report, nearly 2000 workers are earning a living from this occupation and of them 40 per cent are poor women who have little else to do rest of the year.

We feel the report in this daily has come at a right time as a warning to the health authorities of not only Narsingdi, but other districts as well where dry fish cultivation is a major economic activity. The health authorities should immediately send instructions to the district health authorities, the Civil Surgeon's office in this case, so that they may take the matter up with the food inspectors and law enforcing agencies to clamp down strict measures to stop further use of harmful chemicals and pesticide as preservatives in dry fish. Efforts should be made to de-contaminate the existing lots in various markets so that people can be saved from some imminent health hazards. Massive community awareness programmes should also be undertaken by the Ministry of Social Welfare in this regard.

Since 1986 there is a rapid increase of fish diseases, and it can be correlated with the increase use of agrochemicals, disposal of untreated industrial and municipal wastes etc. to river waters, and low-lying water reservoirs.

Research studies in industrial countries have shown that mainly chemical contamination effects the habitat in aquatic environment. In Bangladesh there is a rapid increase in use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers for the growth of newly introduced HYV crops. Some extremly hazardous pesticides (the dirty dozen) are used in the country.

Pesticides and other contaminated water enter to the low-lying beels, haros and rivers. 270 species of birds and 120 species of commercial important fish are exposed to danger. The "green and genetic revolution" which was to feed the world hungry is destroying the genetic base of the food supply. There were about 30,000 rice varities cultivated by the farmers in the Indian-Subcontinent but at present it comprises only 15 varities. The new HYV's are unstable to environment, replacing the environmentally sustainable plants that were preserved by our ancestors since thousands of years. Bangladesh should encourage to improve farming techniques for traditional varities under regulated flash of nutrient rich flood water, reducing reliance on chemicals, improving quality of health aspects of food production, protecting water supply and creating environment more congenial for human and habitat

In Bangladesh fish is the most vital supplier of animal proteins and about 8 per cent of the population and 1.2 million professional fishermen earn their livelihood from fishing, which ranges to about 8000,000 metric tonnes annually. Inland water fisheries accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total fish catch but the price hike and nonavailability of many variety of fish types indicate a decline of inland fisheries.

It is presumed that overfishing, structural measures to prevent river overflows and an increasing use of low-lift pumps result loss of habitat as floodplains are drained. On the other hand there is a gradual growth in water pollution by increase use of agrochemicals, uncontrolled disposal by industry, municipal and urban wastes to river waters that not only deplete available oxygen supply but also dispose viral infections, extinction of aquatic habitats and long term health hazards.

Recently the main variety of eatable fishes in lakes, beels, haros (flood-plain depressions), baors (ox-bow lakes) contain parasites associated with black spot in bass or with external growths, tumors or other lesions, lip and skin growths. Such tumors and abnormal growths are locally known as "fish-pox", whereas the poor fishermen and villagers do not know the background of such disease and the goverment or other institutions have any project or have taken any necessary action (Nahar, 1992).

Since 1986 there is a rapid increase in such disease which can be correlated with the increasing use of agrochemicals, untreated industrial and municipal wastes to river waters. During past decade toxicological research has indicated that the immune system, on which defence mechanisms depend, is a potential target for many chemicals to foreign to the body. Experimental studies show that toxicological effects of chemicals on immune system changes in the weight and microscopic appearance of lymphoid organs, in altered numbers of blood leukocytes, and in the impairment of immune cell functions. Such toxicity may result in an increased incidence of infectious diseases or in the development of certain tumours ( Vos et al., 1987 ).

Since last decade research studies on tumours or infection diseases in fish in industrial countries have been accomplished (Sindermann, 1983; Mailns et al., 1988 and Overstreet, 1988).

Metabolic Alternations

Results show that mainly chemical contamination effects the habitat in aquatic environment. Pollutants, once they have entered living organisms, find themselves in contact with enzyme systems that can make them metabolic alternations. These alternations, which use a series of biochemical processes, can be classified as biodegradtion or meta.bolic transformation. Metabolic bio-transformation can also cause alternations that give rise to compounds which are more toxic than molecules from which they are derived. Further it has been shown under controlled laboratory conditions that environmental contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs and pesticides with the immune system of fish (Vos et al., 1987). This means that an increase in infectious diseases in areas contaminated with immunotoxic chemicals in Bangladesh could be attributed at great extent, to the immunosuppressive properties of these compounds. Pollutants may interact with natural water substances, and with each other. In addition, their effect on organisms may be altered by the presence of other toxins. Hellawell (1986) comments that the effect of mixtures of pesticides may be more poisonous than predicted from the known effects of each one separately.

In Bangladesh recent years' increase use of pesticides and fertilizers by the ignorant farmers, unaware of negative effects of agrochemicals, pose a big challange to health, environment and declining economy of the country. Ninety per cent of the agricultural use of pesticides are for the newly introduced high variety rice (IRRI) and wheat, whereas the traditional varities do not require almost any chemicals.

Some extremly hazardous pesticides are used in the country, although these are prohibited in the producing countries. These pesticides are carcinogenic (produce cancer), mutagenic (causing genetic damage), teratogenic (damage foctus), and allergenic.

Some examples are cited as follows:
Organophosphorus pesticides: (diazinon,malathion,diptrex phosphamidon,carbofuran, NOGOS, etc.)

The group includes a large number of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides - containand an organic structure made up of carbon atoms arranged in a straight chain or ring.

These insecticides work by interfering with the function of nerve cell. In healthy nervous system, insect, animal or human, an activated nerve cell stimulates the next in line by releasing the enzyme acetylcholine, which flows across the tiny gaps or synapases that separate nerve cells.

Once the nerve impulse has passed across the synapse another enzyme, Chlolinesterase, acts to stop the message reverberating endlessly across the synapse. Altstair Hay, a chemical pathologist at the University of Leeds, states that both voluntary muscles and involuntary muscles (heart, lungs, stomach and uterus etc.) can go into spasm in response to the absence of chloinesteraterase (Bartle, 1991). The unchecked nerve message to the voluntary muscles results in tremors in all muscles a person can think of moving. The unchecked signals to the involuntary mu.scles can result in heart attacks, stomach cramps and vomiting, excessive menustruation and spontonous abortion in women,impotence and sterility in men, loss of sphincter control , increasing excitement and fearfulness (Bartle, 1991). For those who survive exposure to organophosphates the impact on their lives and bodies is enormous. Thousands of deaths and harmes by pesticides in Bangladesh are not known. But scattered reports of poison and deaths are regularly reported in local newspapers.

In Bangladesh about a third of pesticide consumption consists of organophosphate Diazinon , which is as described above a serious challange to all living beings. Hellawell (1986) showed in standard comprehensive toxicity tests that only 5 to 51000 parts per billion (ppb) organophosphosphorus pesticides in water untolerable to fish. Fish are the best indicator of water health and decrease in fish quantity and increase in diseases reflect that Bangladesh has arrived beyond the tolerable range. Besdies, the main source of drinking water in the urban areas is surface water. Whereas the groundwater is replenished by surface waters. The most serious threats that chemical contaminants from industry and agriculture pose is to groundwater, which is virtually impossible to purify once contamination has occured, since the microbes that normally breakdown organic pollutants need oxygen, from which groundwater is cutoff.

The history of of pesticide uses illustrates that additional problems are created either by the rapid resurgence of the treated pest population or by the elevation of minor pests to the role of secondary or major pest status.:
Furthermore, insecticide applications reduce not only the pest population but also populations of natural enemies, with a resultant increase in pest population. There are many examples of unintentional damage to nontarget species:

  • the drift of herbacides and insecticides onto sensative crops or those intended for animal feeds;
  • the reduction of beneficial soilmicroflora by application of fungicides or herbacides to the above ground portions of the crop;
  • killing of wild life;
  • the contamination of root crops from last years insecticides or herbacides application;
  • sicknes and death of livestock feeding in pastures on which highly toxic materials drifted following application of to adjacent crops; and, finally,
  • the accidental poisoning of persons, including children, from improperly stored pesticides.

    Harmful smuggled pesticides - Destroying Biodiversity

    Use of substandard insecticides in agricultural lands is destroying fertility of the land, according to a report in yesterday's The Independent filed from Pabna. The report says that random application of cheap but low-quality insecticide smuggled into the country from India is harming the fertility of the land in the northern region including Pabna. Farmers are attracted due to its low-price and apparently high potency and the toxic effect on the land and the environment is ignored. Many varieties of fish which grow in the shallow water near rice fields are becoming extinct. The beneficial insects like earthworm and butterflies and birds and animals are seriously affected. There are other beneficial insects like ladybird beetle, green lacewings which perform the same task that the insecticide is intended to do and so their destruction is self-defeating as far as the farmer is concerned.

    Insecticide has always presented a dilemma. Only discreet use under close observation can maximise benefits at acceptable cost to the environment. Instead, a free-for-all atmosphere seems to be prevailing in insecticide use. Some chemicals, a dozen or so, has already been internationally branded as particularly toxic, the so-called "Dirty Dozen". In Bangladesh approval for use of a pesticide is given by the Pesticide Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC). Although PTAC gives approval for use, decision on the quantity to be used and the best time for using it in the case of each crop is left to the uninitiated farmer. This puts a responsibility on the extension workers. And PTAC can have no control on smuggled varieties.

    Unregulated use of pesticides is harming human beings in more direct ways as well. It is found that farmers wear no protective clothing while spraying pesticide, exposing themselves to diseases. Alternatives which can make possible reduced use of pesticide. One is biological control of pest - release of a devouring but harmless variety of pest which can destroy the pernicious pest and thus save crops. Another newly introduced technology is use of pheromone trap for killing insects. It consists in synthesising pheromone or sex hormone released by female insects which attracts male insects from far away. If pheromone is dissolved in a small vessel containing water, the male insect will be enticed and drowned. Pheromone is said to cost less than pesticide but it can work only on particular types of insect. Smuggling of unapproved harmful chemicals must be stopped. Farmers must be made more aware on the dangers of mishandling pesticide (The Independent, February 14, 2005).

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