Dr Sam Adu-Kumi, Chief Programme Officer and Head of Environmental Quality Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called on all stakeholders to come together to educate the public on the proper use of pesticides to ensure a safe environment for human habitation.
"The public, particularly retailers of pesticides have been asked to read labels and instructions of such products and explain them to farmers to apply them more appropriately. When this is done, it could save all of us from the residue of such chemicals which endanger our lives", he said.
Dr Adu-Kumi was delivering a public lecture on "Pesticides Regulation and Management in Ghana" in Accra. The lecture was organised by the National Codex Committee (NCC), a consultative group to the Government on Food Safety.
The NCC has oversight responsibility for the activities of Codex Alimentarius, which refers to a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practices which contribute to the safety, quality and fairness in the international food trade.
He said recent researches he had undertaken and other experts revealed that there were high levels of chemicals in some of the food, vegetables, fruits and breast milk of mothers that caused various diseases to humans.
Dr Adu-Kumi explained that researches undertaken between 2008 -2009 to measure chemicals in water, air, soil and fish revealed that 98 per cent of all pesticides sprayed, entered into the environment with only two per cent entering the intended targets.
These chemicals enter the soil which produces foodstuffs, air that is breathed, water that is consumed by humans, creating many health problems for the human body.
The research was undertaken within communities in the Greater Accra Region, Ashanti Region and Northern Region and the outcome revealed that banned pesticides like DDT and Endusulfan were contained in tilapia fish, tomatoes and other foodstuffs which entered the human body after consumption.
"This explains why breast milk of some prime nursing mothers examined was found to contain some of the chemicals which might affect the brains of their babies," Dr Adu-Kumi added.
He said people who breathed the chemicals in the air had various diseases become sick and might even die, and stressed the need to mitigate such chemicals by adopting good agricultural practices, especially teaching and educating farmers on the right way to use pesticides which were necessary for boosting food production.
Dr Adu-Kumi said there was the need for compliance of EPA regulations on the handling of pesticides in the country, adding, that such fora to educate all stakeholders on the issues for everybody to be enlightened on pesticides were ideal.
Mr Joseph C. Edmund, Deputy Director, Chemical Control and Management Centre, EPA, said pesticides were important to achieve maximum food production the world over as more than 50 per cent of global agriculture production was lost before or after harvest due to the combined effects of diseases, pest attacks and weeds.
However, WHO has estimated that, three million people suffer from acute severe pesticides poison and over 20,000 may die every year, with the vast majority occurring in developed regions, including Africa.
"It means that though we use less, we are more exposed to the hazards."
Mr Edmund explained that the legal framework of the EPA for the control and management of pesticides in Ghana made it an obligation that all pesticides must be registered before they could be used in Ghana and the EPA was ensuring that all pesticides were registered and well labeled, adding "All pesticides dealers were licensed before they could deal in them".
He pointed out that the legal framework was not only to regulate pesticides but to protect human health, safety and the environment by minimising risks associated with pesticides while providing Ghanaians access to the pest management tools they required for agriculture, forestry, industry, public health and personal use.
Mr Edmund defined pesticides as a substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or reducing the destructive effects of a pest and or substances intended for the use as a plant regulator, defoliant, desiccant or wood preservative.
He explained that the pesticides absorption rate when sprayed on an intended target, gets into the human body by spreading first to the forehead about 36 per cent, ear, 47 per cent, palm 12 per cent, abdomen 18 per cent and the scrotum 100 per cent causing impotence, and urged men in particular, to protect themselves properly when spraying such pesticides.
Mr Edmund urged farmers to take important notice of signal words like "Danger-Poison, Danger, Warning, Caution" to avoid injuring themselves, others or the environment by misusing the pesticides.
Currently, 217 pesticides made up of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and others have been registered in Ghana while 26 pesticides including DDT have been banned.