Toxic Chemicals Board urges ‘lock and key’ storage of gramaxone, other pesticides

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With the reported accidental swallowing of the toxic pesticide – gramaxone – by a four-year-old at the weekend, the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board is urging, yet again, that persons ensure proper storage.

While pesticides are used by farmers, it is harmful and dangerous to people and the environment and must be handled and stored properly.

It is for this reason that in Guyana, only farmers are allowed to purchase pesticides and there are established protocols they must follow when using pesticides.

“Generally, farmers must have access to pesticides but one of the things they must do when you purchase pesticide, it is the responsibility to ensure that it is stored under lock and key that is very important because you want to prevent unwanted access,” Trecia David, Registrar of the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board told the News Room on Monday.

On Sunday, four-year-old Tinesha Shamshundar of No. 50 Village Corentyne, Berbice ingested gramaxone which was stored in her mother’s goat pen.

The young girl is currently hospitalised in a critical state at the New Amsterdam Hospital.

The deadly substance was stored in a one-litre Pepsi bottle inside a tire in the pen. While playing in the yard, the young girl ventured into the pen and found the bottle.

Trecia David, Registrar of the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board

And so, to prevent unwanted access like in this case, David is urging farmers to be more responsible.

Gramaxone is one of the restricted pesticides in Guyana and only certain farmers are allowed to purchase it.

“When you go to a vending site, you have to produce your ID card, there is actually a ledger that each vending site would have to keep of who purchased and how much and so on, that is in terms of gramaxone,” David explained.

However, there are less toxic pesticides that all farmers can access. With risks to health and the environment when handling these chemicals, David said the most severe risk is improper storage.

“What you are using is deadly, and you have to treat it as such and be responsible about it in that same manner.

“The reason it is supposed to be under lock and key is only the farmers are supposed to have access. It is one of the reasons in 2012 we started promoting the storage cabinet campaign,” David explained.

The Board produces 150 storage cabinets every year which are built with two locks and is distributed to farmers to store pesticides.

“It [pesticides] must be under lock and key, there have to be two locks in that area where you are storing, it must be away from the home, pesticides should never be in your home, it should never be under the kitchen sink and it should never be under your stairs,” David stated.

The farmer is given one key and someone else in the home should have the other key “so, in order for you to open that area, you have to have both persons present.”

Since 2008, David related that they have been training farmers on how to properly store pesticides.

The Board also follows up with farmers to ensure the proper storage for pesticides is being implemented.

“There isn’t a specific penalty we can do if they are not storing properly but once we are in areas, we ensure we tell them what they need to do to store.”

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