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Gujarat: ‘21% of poisoning victims were homemakers’

Ahmedabad: A very under-recognised and under-reported simmering public health concern — poisoning — is demanding immediate attention. Recently, Gujarat’s primary poison information centre at the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad studied 1,373 poisoning cases in Ahmedabad over the last few years and found that a major chunk of the victims were housemakers, almost 21%, followed by labourers (11%), agricultural workers (11%) and industrial workers (7%). The data suggests that pesticides used for agriculture are the major source of poisonings.

Consumption of household chemicals like insecticides, rodenticides, phenyl, bleaching powder and mosquito repellent made up 12% of poisoning cases.

Insecticides were widely found to be the most preferred agent of poisoning, accounting for 26% of cases. Further analysis of poisons revealed chemical agents which included toxic chemicals like acephate, phorate, adrin, carbofuran, celphos, chlorophos, chorpyriphos, cypermethrin, DDT, gamexin, dimethoate, imidochloprid, malathion and monocrotophos.

“The list also includes some insecticides with local trade names whose chemical composition was not clear,” said the study by Avinash Pagdhune, Kundan Kunal, Rajendra Palkhade, Aswin Patel, SukhDev Mishra, Kanubhai Amrutlal Patel of NIOH Ahmedabad and Jaseer Muhamed of the biochemistry department of the Regional Occupational Health Centre, Karnataka. Incidence and fatality rates was found to be higher in males than females. “During the course of treatment, 289 (21%) cases required ventilator support. A total of 47 patients suffered from limb paralysis due to poisoning during this time period,” claimed the study. Interestingly, there were 23 cases where poisoning was reported through inhalation of a toxic agent. The study also pointed out previous studies which reported higher incidence, almost 44%, of poisoning due to household chemicals. The study reiterated that chemicals used in agriculture should be either banned or given to farmers with strict usage guidelines explaining the risks involved.

“Most of the poisoning cases reported here were suicidal in nature, indicating the need for effective measures to prevent suicides and improve psychological health in the community,” the study said.

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