London: Are higher levels of exposure to pesticides to blame for the rising tide of suicides among farmers in poor countries? A new study seems to suggest so.
The study was carried out by Robert Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry at King`s College London, and scientists from Tongde Hospital in Zhejiang Province, China.
Pesticides commonly used in China and in other low income countries are organophosphates. They have been banned in many Western nations.
"Organophosphates are particularly lethal chemicals when taken in overdose and are a cause of many suicides worldwide. Our research findings provides further support for calls for tighter international restrictions on agricultural pesticide availability and use," says Stewart.
They are known to be very dangerous if ingested as an overdose but there is also biological evidence that chronic low-grade exposure to these chemicals, which are very easily absorbed through the skin and lungs, may harm mental health.
The study was carried out in central and coastal China, a relatively wealthy area with a rapidly developing economy. In a very large survey of mental health in rural community residents, participants were also asked about how they stored pesticides, a King`s College release said.
"The findings of this study suggested potential causal links and might partially account for the much higher incidence of suicide in rural than urban areas of China," Jianmin Zhang, a psychiatrist at Tongde Hospital, said.