On May 23, Thailand restricted the use of banned herbicides, such as paraquat, to its exports of more than 30 other countries. Interestingly enough, recent research shows that a high level of persistent organic pollutants (POP) and herbicides are strongly present in the food and the environment. Despite the legal restrictions, these herbicides and POPs currently pose a serious threat to the health of Thais.
This research conducted by the Thai Pesticide Alert Network in Thailand (EARTH and Thai-PAN) revealed high levels of contamination throughout Thailand, with the heaviest presence in the Samut Sakhon province. Levels for the main contaminant, known as dibenzo-p-dioxins and polybrominated furans (PBDD / F), were 33 times higher than the European Union standards. This study also found that 46% and 55% of fruits and vegetables respectively, exhibited illegal quantities of harmful pesticides. According to the PAN-Thailand coordinator, “the most worrying finding is that these herbicides detected are currently illegal substances like carbofuran”.
In another test carried out last year by the Zurich Cantonal Laboratory, there were 12 samples out of 40 that were noncompliant. Six of the incriminated samples contained a total of 17 pesticides with concentrations exceeding legal standards, according to the FSVO annual report on border contaminant controls. Two of them contained quantities that reach levels posing serious health risks.
The pollutant footprint in Thailand, with regards to the spread of these contaminants, needs to be addressed. Many local government officials attest to the legal ban as a simple solution; however, these recent reports exhibit the opposite and the dire need for further regulations/actions. This questions the need for future procedures that can be taken to hinder the spread of these pollutants, since relying on just making these herbicides illegal has not solved this problem. Communities and local businesses need to take it upon themselves to help stop the spread of harmful contaminants that pose both environmental and human health risks.