Inquirer (Philippines), November 30, 2006

79 downed by chemical fumes from Davao del Norte plantation

Pesticide Mocap produced by Bayer CropScience

DAVAO CITY/Philippines -- At least 79 people, majority of them school children, were downed by chemical fumes from a nearby banana plantation in the town of Braulio Dujali in Davao del Norte province on Wednesday morning, the municipal health officer said Thursday. Dr. Cherry Demaala said at least 30 students of the Tanglaw Elementary school suddenly passed out while they were gathering for the flag ceremony. The number of those who were taken to the hospital reached 79, including a one-year old child and five teachers. All have been declared out of danger but continued to be observed closely, Demaala added.

Mayor Greogorio Faculla has ordered an investigation and designated health officials of his town to monitor the condition of the victims.

Demaala said the victims suffered dizziness and nausea, and many of them fainted after they inhaled the toxic fumes reportedly emanating from the Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (Tadeco), a company owned by the Floirendos.

That the victims inhaled toxic chemical fumes was also confirmed by Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) Director Estrella Laquinta. She said the victims were exposed to Mocap, a nematocide or chemical agent used against worms in plants. Reports said that the incident happened after the employees of Tadeco applied Mocap. Tadeco quickly acknowledged there was a chemical leak and expressed regret over the incident.

"In response to what happened, Tadeco has provided immediate medical assistance in the form of ambulances, hospital care, and trained medical professionals. The company is committed to providing all that is necessary in order that a similar incident will not happen again," Tadeco said in a statement. Mocap, which is manufactured by Bayer Cropscience, contains ethotrop as its active ingredient. Ethotrop is chemical that severely affects the functioning of the nervous system. The Pesticide Action Network (Pan) in its website indicated that chemicals with ethotrop will cause tremors, nausea and weakness at low exposures, and paralysis and death on exposure to high doses. (By Jeffrey M. Tupas)

Pesticide Action Network Philippines
December 4, 2006, PRESS RELEASE

Pesticide poisoning victims more prevalent than government thinks

"Victims of pesticide poisoning are more prevalent in the country than what the government thinks." This is what Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Philippines, said at the commemoration of the world's worst chemical disaster in Bhopal on December 3, otherwise known as the World No Pesticides Use Day.

Recently, 79 people, including children, were hospitalized after exposure to chemical fumes from a nearby banana plantation in the town of Braulio Dujali in Davao del Norte province. Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (Tadeco), a company owned by the Floirendos, has admitted that the fumes were a result of a leak of the pesticide Mocap, which is manufactured by Bayer Cropscience. Mocap contains ethoprop as its active ingredient, a chemical that severely affects the functioning of the nervous system. It can cause tremors, nausea and weakness at low exposures, and paralysis and death on exposure to high doses.

Dr. Quijano, a toxicologist from the University of the Philippines and prominent anti-pesticides activist, said that the recent incident in Davao del Norte is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the scope of pesticide poisoning occurring in the countryside, particular in Mindanao where many banana and pineapple plantations are located. Banana and pineapple plantations are known to be heavy users of pesticides, applied through ground and aerial spraying. Presently, environmental groups, including PAN Philippines, are lobbying for a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides in Davao City.

Dr. Quijano, currently a subject of a civil lawsuit by Lapanday Agricultural Corporation for previously exposing similar cases of pesticide poisoning in Kamukhaan village in Davao del Sur, has been traveling around Mindanao documenting the adverse health and environmental effects of widespread pesticides use.

"Pesticide poisoning victims suffer not only acute side effects such as those experienced by the schoolchildren in Braulio Dujali. Many villagers in Mindanao, especially those working in the plantations as pesticide applicators, are living in misery as skin diseases and various ailments such as cancer eat away their bodies," he said. "The government's weak regulation and lack of attention for these cases is lamentable."

Dr. Quijano also lambasted Tadeco following reports that the Department of Health was barred by the company from getting blood samples of the victims. He said that Tadeco was no different from other big agricultural companies that always try to hide the horrific effects of their unsafe practices.

PAN Philippines and other partner organizations, held a series of public awareness consultations and seminars from December 3 - 6 in Digos, Davao and Butuan among farmers and other concerned sectors, wherein the ban of aerial spraying of pesticides and of highly hazardous pesticides like Paraquat were campaigned for. It was part of concerted actions of hundreds of non-governmental and mass organizations from all over the world against pesticides use that day.

MindaNews, 30 November 2006

41 students, 4 teachers hospitalized due to banana plantation chemical inhalation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 Nov) -- Forty-one students and four teachers of the Tanglaw Elementary School in Dujali town, Davao del Norte were hospitalized this morning after inhaling fumes from a poisonous chemical sprayed on the ground by a banana plantation, initial reports of the Dujali police said Wednesday afternoon.

The students and teachers were holding the daily flag ceremony at 7:30 a.m. when they reportedly inhaled airborne components of MOCAP chemicals sprayed in a nearby banana plantation owned by the Tagum Agriculture Development Corporation (TADECO).

TADECO uses Mocap or ethroprophos chemical as a ground fertilizer. The victims were brought to the Carmen District Hospital in nearby Carmen town and at the TADECO Hospital.

TADECO management has owned responsibility over the incident. In a statement to reporters, TADECO said the situation was "under control" by 1 p.m. and that they are doing a 24-hour monitoring of the situation. The company, however, denied that the chemical is poisonous, insisting that it only smells foul.

Police said the town's Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council has helped evacuate the students. The report did not mention if there were residents affected. (by Walter I. Balane)