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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Upper West Region has launched a campaign aimed at sensitizing residents of the region especially farmers and dealers on the best ways of handling pesticides. The public education programme which involves radio talk shows was initiated to protect the lives of residents, the environment and other useful organisms.

Speaking to W93.5FM, Programmes Officer at the Upper West Regional office of the EPA, Anastasia Comfort Blankson said pesticides especially the inorganic ones can cause great damage to the environment and human lives if they are used indiscriminately. She therefore advised users to take precautions before, during and after applying pesticides in order to prevent any associated danger.

Among the pre-spraying precautions, the EPA officer warned farmers against using unregistered or unidentified products in their homes or farms, and to not smell a chemical to determine what it is. She further advised that, instructions on the container should be carefully read to find out the type of pesticide, application rate and the time of the day it should be applied. As she urged farmers to acquire training on the application techniques, she also advised users to always wear protective clothing while applying pesticide, and never to stir the chemical with the hand even when wearing rubber gloves.

On precautions to take during spraying, Madam Anastasia Comfort Blankson said users should avoid talking as much as possible when spraying. Eating, drinking or smoking should as well be avoided. She further advised that the chemical should not be sprayed in the air when there is light wind or breeze, and that spraying should be done in the morning or evening while also ensuring that poultry, diary or meat animals are not grazing the fields or men working there at the time of spraying.

After spraying, the Programmes Officer advised users to dig a hole and spray any remaining particles of the pesticide into it. Protective clothing should be removed and washed immediately after thoroughly cleaning the spray tank and the nozzle. While advising farmers to take their bath or wash their hands with soap after use, Madam Anastasia urged farmers to avoid washing their bodies or clothes into water bodies as aquatic life will also be in danger.

In line with the Pesticides Control and Management Act 1996 (Act 528) which mandates the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the effective registration of pesticides to avoid indiscriminate handling of the chemical substances, Madam Anastasia Comfort called on the public especially dealers in pesticides in the region to ensure that they are registered to carry out the business of engaging in the sale and distribution of the chemicals.

On his part, Assistant Programmes Officer, Abdul-Rashid Zakaria said pesticide should be bought only when it is needed. He said it is not advisable to keep these chemicals at home, office or close to children. He further advised pesticides sellers to ensure their stores are well ventilated. Mr. Zakaria also cautioned the general public against using empty pesticide containers for storing water or any useful thing and called on farmers to create a disposal pit where unneeded or expired materials can be disposed of.  The pit according to him “should be fenced and labeled DANGER, and gate locked to prevent unauthorized people and animals from entering it”.

Mr. Zakaria also mentioned some of the dangers associated with poor handling and indiscriminate use of pesticide to include the risk of death or health conditions resulting from acute or chronic poisoning of the human system, skin rashes and itchy eyes, infertility in men, risk of losing pregnancy, risk of fire outbreak or explosion, pollution of water bodies and the destruction of microorganisms which enhance soil fertility.