Costa Rica Cries Out With One Voice: “Stop Fumigating Our Rural Schools”

    Let's protect the health of our children and teachers

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    A new press release has just been circulated for poisonous fumigation on rural schools during class hours. With the impunity of the oppressive system, the companies continue spilling their toxins on our children illegally.

    Surely, in the statistics of the ministries and mass communication newspapers new records of hectares produced or improvements in yields will appear. What will not appear in this news are the data on the use of new and more pesticides, nor on the number of people affected by them… and even less on the number of schools that will be systematically fumigated and contaminated with these chemical products.

    After more than 20 years with this agricultural production model, it seems redundant to say that the countryside does not produce food but diseases. There are not a few studies that show the effects that these toxins have on our health.

    Exposure only to glyphosate (one of the many poisons used in the fields) affects reproductive health with increases in spontaneous abortions and congenital malformations, endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism, neurological or cognitive development disorders, and cancer rates that soar, tripling the incidences, prevalence and mortality from oncological diseases in direct relation to exposure to pesticides.

    “Collateral damage”

    Collateral damage from agro-poisons is the daily bread for hundreds of Costa Rican communities, countless direct violations of the right to health of thousands of people, especially children and women.

    These are not isolated cases. Fumigation with pesticides is a problem that affects all the inhabitants of towns that live in rural areas or in the rural-urban interface. The educational communities of rural schools are a sector that is terribly vulnerable and exposed to these chemicals and, therefore, to these diseases.

    The School of Public Health of the University of Costa Rica studied the presence of pesticides in rural schools in the country. The main finding was devastating: there is chlorpyrifos in the classrooms, a insecticide that the European Union has decided to ban for causing brain damage, learning problems and nervous system problems in children.

    The UCR investigation was carried out in 12 schools near banana plantations and demonstrated the presence of traces of chlorpyrifos and 17 agrovenoms sprayed by the planes in the air and dust.

    On the other hand, it has been known since 2014 that the Regional Institute for Toxic Substances of the National University has reported that pregnant women who live near banana plantations in the canton of Matina in Limón have high amounts of ethylenethiourea (ETU) in their urine. ETU is a derivative of the pesticide mancozeb, which is applied by aerial fumigation in banana plantations. The study was carried out with 445 pregnant women residing in the area, who underwent urine tests.

    The Infants and Environmental Health Program has been conducting research for six years with children under 9 years of age in the canton of Talamanca. There they have found significant concentrations of toxic substances such as Mancozeb in the urine. In this case, it has been possible to establish that children with a higher concentration of this substance have more learning and behavioral problems. What we will see for decades and for several generations are the consequences of contamination by pesticides. Dust samples with pesticides have already been found in: houses, churches, schools and even mattresses in houses.

    The National Front of Sectors Affected by the Piñera Expansion has reported that communities such as Congo de Guácimo, in Limón, are also exposed every day to the application of agrochemicals by pineapple companies a few meters from the houses and the school.

    The data indicates that only 25% of the spraying of any pesticide hits the target, the rest directly affects other living organisms towards which the application was not directed. It is also estimated that only 32% of the sprayed pesticides were retained by the target plants of the application; 49% was deposited on the ground and 19% traveled by air to other neighboring areas.

    At least 200 meters

    Currently there is no restriction or withdrawal that prevents the spraying of these dangerous substances at the foot of health centers, schools or residential areas. The Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of Nature (FECON) proposed to the Ministry of Agricultureand Livestock include within the Manual of “Good Agricultural Practices” to keep spraying away in a radius of at least 200 meters from any study center, EBAIS or population center.

    In other Latin American countries, measures have been adopted to protect populations from poisoning. For example, the provincial legislation of Córdoba in Argentina, in Law No. 9164 “Chemical or Biological Products for Agricultural Use” explicitly in its Article 59 prohibits the application of these products within a radius of less than 500 meters from residential settlements.

    Recently, the legislative fraction of the FrenteAmplioParty presented the bill “to Regulate Aerial Fumigation, with the objective of safeguarding the population from the harmful effects of agrochemicals that are used on crops in many areas of the country.” The project is already in the legislative current under file N. 23,697.

    The studied ordinance establishes that for ground fumigation in areas where there are rural educational establishments, the application of agrochemical products and/or pesticides must be carried out outside class hours, and the establishment must be notified 72 hours before, with a copy to the School Council. Forest barriers of a minimum of 3 staggered rows of native species must be established around the entire perimeter of the schools, in order to achieve a permanent natural protection barrier.

    According to the National Constitution “All inhabitants enjoy the right to a healthy, balanced environment, suitable for human development and for productive activities to satisfy present needs without compromising those of future generations; and they have a duty to preserve it. Environmental damage will generate, as a priority, the obligation to recompose, as established by law. It is an obligation of the State to implement the necessary measures so that this right is not violated.

    From environmentalism we think that this bill goes in the right direction, but it must also include fumigations carried out by other ground spray systems such as “boom” type tractors and minor spraying equipment such as spray pumps. In other words, the country must keep all agro-poison fumigations away from population centers, schools and health centers.

    Resonance Costa Rica
    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. Visit and subscribe at Resonance Costa Rica Youtube Channel
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