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Human health

All crop protection products (CPP) undergo a rigorous evaluation process with regard to their safety to human health and the environment. This involves a process of risk assessment which results in recommendations concerning the safe use of the product. This evaluation is subject to rigorous independent assessments by national and regional regulatory authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA and the European Union, before permission to sell is granted.

Information on safe use is communicated to the user primarily through the product label and material safety data sheets. In addition, basic good agricultural practice and, where appropriate, additional training provide the user with information applicable to the safe use of all products.

The process of risk management also includes efforts to prevent unauthorised use or misuse (e.g. by ensuring secure storage of CPP). Both risk assessment and risk management are crucial to the prevention of ill health which may arise from inappropriate exposure to CPP.

If an incident occurs it is important to respond quickly and professionally with appropriate medical advice and assistance. The product label should contain clear advice on what to do in the event of an accident, including where to obtain further advice.

Medical doctors may be unfamiliar with the effects of specific products and may be unsure about how to provide the best treatment. Collaboration between the industry and the medical community, specifically those working in poison information and clinical toxicology centres, is therefore essential and may include the provision of materials for diagnosis and treatment of poisonings. Communication is also important to share learning from such incidents in order to guide prevention measures.

In many developed and developing countries the industry supports training and education programs for doctors and rural health workers on the diagnosis and treatment of incidents with all crop protection products. This is achieved through seminars, publication of literature, emergency telephone numbers and internet based advice. Sometimes, concerns about real or perceived health problems in product use may require more detailed medical investigations or surveys involving specially qualified medical and scientific experts, e.g. in the areas of occupational health, epidemiology or clinical toxicology. The results of such investigations help to guide improvements of CPP and their application.

Useful links:

“Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings”  - handbook from the Environmental Protection Agency USA

National Pesticide Information Center - A website set up by Oregon State University

“Sound management of pesticides and diagnosis and treatment of pesticide poisoning” (3287 Kb) training course from the WHO