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Revista de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 0124-0064


HIDROVO, Alvaro Javier. Pesticides used in the spraying of illicit crops and human health: an issue of science or politics? . Rev. salud pública [online]. 2004, vol.6, n.2, pp.199-211. ISSN 0124-0064.

OBJECTIVE: The potential adverse effects on human health associated with pesticides used in the program of eradication of illicit crops in Colombia are controversial. From the beginning of the 80's the pesticides paraquat, triclopyr, imazapyr, glyphosate and tebuthiuron have been used in eradication programs or experimentally. The objective of this study was to identify a reasonable approach which could be adopted by public health on this problem. METHODS: A qualitative content analysis was carried out of the speeches of social actors involved in this debate, to classify them according to Suppes' expectations, or lay approach to risk. Social actors were identified by means of available documents in hard copies or on the internet; afterwards, ideally typical texts were selected and analysed. RESULTS: Skin lesions, conjunctivitis, and gastrointestinal and respiratory in-fections were identified as the most frequent illnesses. The analysis of speeches identified the affected groups as vulnerable populations. The Colombian and American governments present reports, based on the "medical model", which indicate no association between glyphosate exposure and human health. Guerrilla groups do not show a clear relationship between pesticides and effects on health; the national and international scientific communities criticize the eradication program based on concepts from ecology and the Latin American Social Medicine; environmentalist groups criticize any use of pesticides, and human right defenders point out that sprayings violate Colombian and American laws. DISCUSSION: In conclusion the different positions are opposed and none can be considered irrefutable. A rational position from the public health stand-point is to support the adoption of the precaution principle.

Keywords : Pesticides; poisoning; science; health policy; Colombia.

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