Using locally made insecticides may cause brain, nerve damage- Physicians warn

Physicians have advised Nigerians against using locally made insecticides, warning that they are laced with dangerous chemicals that are injurious to health and can destroy vital organs in the body.

Speaking in an interview with PUNCH Healthwise, a  Public Health Specialist, Dr. Abdullahi Namadi, said locally made insecticides can affect the central nervous system and also cause brain damage.

The expert, who is the Director of Public Health, Jigawa State Ministry of Health, said most locally made insecticides are derivatives of pyrethroids and pyrethrins chemicals and other chemical components.

“These chemical components are mixed in certain proportions in order to be used either at home or on the farm. So, if not carefully managed, and the producers put high concentrations of these chemicals, they become unhealthy to humans because the way the body is made up is similar to that of other organisms as well.

“So, the way it is affecting the organism you are trying to kill is the way it will affect humans. That is why when you use such chemicals, you will start having irritation immediately. And that shows the concentration is too much for the body.

“That is why after coming in contact with these chemicals, sometimes, you start having itching on your nose, throat and pain as well. That shows the concentration is too high and if care is not taken, it can affect the whole system in the body.

“Because by the time the chemicals get into the respiratory system, the person will start having breathlessness. And by having breathlessness, it is affecting the respiratory system,” he explained.

Giving further insight into the health risks associated with locally made insecticides, Namadi said the use of these insecticides can cause kidney problems.

According to the public health specialist, “Again, it can cause cancer of the skin. So, these chemicals are really dangerous.

“Also, when these chemicals get into the system, it is one of the causes of kidney damage that we are having in the country because they affect almost all the systems in the body.

“It is very important we regulate the way these chemicals are used. Otherwise, we will kill ourselves without knowing what we are doing.

“Some of the people selling these insecticides don’t know the danger of what they are doing.
“Unfortunately, the regulatory agencies are not doing much to curtail what is happening.”

Namadi also stated that the danger of exposing pregnant women and children to such insecticides is very high.

A Professor of Radiologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu State, Ifeoma Okoye, said insecticides are chemicals used to control insects by killing or repelling them from destructive behaviours.

The Director of the UNN Centre for Clinical Trial, said the most commonly used insecticides are organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates.
According to her, considering the fact that these chemicals also have the potential to harm and kill humans, the use of insecticides should be properly regulated.

She said, “However, insecticide use in Nigeria has been largely unregulated posing numerous health risks including cancers to unsuspecting citizens.

“One locally produced insecticide that readily comes to mind is ‘ Ota pia pia’. This is a vernacular name of Igbo origin, from eastern Nigeria origin and a household name for insecticide, rodenticide or pesticide. The vernacular name implies, “that which completely consumes or devours”.

“The active ingredient is dichlorvos or 2,2 dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate (DDVP), an organophosphate compound. The late Professor Dora Akunyili, in an article, warned that most of the chemical constituents of this local insecticide are unknown and it was yet to be registered with NAFDAC for use.

“However, despite her warnings, the use of the local insecticide continues to proliferate due to its cheap production, efficacy, accessibility and affordability.
“Unfortunately, apart from the fact that it is often compounded in its undiluted state, it is often mixed with other chemicals such as kerosene or carbide,” she added.

To limit exposure to local insecticides, Okoye suggested the use of face masks while applying the chemical, hand washing after application as well as change of clothes.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 12.6 million people die annually as a result of living in an unhealthy environment.

“Environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation, contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries”, says WHO.


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