Endosulfan is an insecticide/pesticide that is being phased out globally. It is a highly toxic, ubiquitous environmental pollutant that causes long-term harm to humans and wildlife. It is widely considered to be a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) and is readily absorbed by stomach, lungs and through the skin. Endosulfan became a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endocrine (or hormone system) in animals, including humans. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Because of its threats to human health and the environment, a global ban on the manufacture and use of endosulfan was negotiated under the Stockholm Convention in April 2011. The ban will take effect in mid 2012, with certain uses exempted for 5 additional years. More than 80 countries had already banned it or announced phase outs by the time the Stockholm Convention ban was agreed upon.
Endosulfan in India
After years of resistance, in May 2011, India also agreed to a phased out ban on the toxic pesticide, under an agreement signed by 127 nations of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Supreme Court has allowed the export of unused stock of endosulfan.
Endosulfan Producers in India
India was the world's largest user of endosulfan, and a major manufactor with three companies—Excel Crop Care, Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, and Coromandal Fertilizers—producing 4,500 tonnes annually for domestic use and another 4,000 tonnes for export.
Endosulfan Disaster in Kerala
The endosulfan tragedy happened in Kasaragod district of Kerala in India. It is not a well-known tragedy. It is considered by many experts in the field of pesticide toxicity as one of the world’s worst pesticide disasters.
The Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK), a public sector undertaking under the State Government, which owns three cashew plantations covering 4600 hectares in Kasargod, sprayed endosulfan aerially in these plantations for 24 years (1976 to 2000), three times a year. These uninterrupted spraying in spite of several warnings about its disastrous impact on health and environment has resulted in several chronic, critical and life-threatening ailments in the areas surrounding the plantations.
Around twelve villages have been severely affected. In these villages there is a very high concentration of chronic health complications like Mental, Physical and Behavioral disorders, Sensory loss, Neurological ailments, Cardiovascular diseases, Congenital Anomalies, Dermatological and Musculoskeletal disorders etc. The health of more than 9000 persons has been impaired by the intense use of this deadly pesticide.
Persistent Organic Pollutants
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. In 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council (GC) decided to begin investigating POPs, initially beginning with a short list of the following twelve POPs, known as the 'dirty dozen'. DDT was one among them.