No antidote for certain pesticide mixes, says docs

By: Shishir Arya

NAGPUR: Senior government doctors treating pesticide inhalation patients say there is no antidote available for three chemical mixes from among those used by the victims. This is hampering effective treatment of many patients, they said.

Doctors made this revelation when Dr Sandhya Kulshreshtha, a consultant in the Central Board of Insecticides and Registration Committee (CIB & RC), held a meeting to brief the doctors of Vidarbha here. The meet was convened to inform them about molecules used in pesticides nowadays so that a particular line of treatment could be adopted. Over 50 middle and senior level doctors attended the meeting.

The CIB & RC expert also presented data on pesticide poisoning cases and deaths occurred due to it, in Maharashtra and other parts of India. There were no separate figures for cases of poisoning due to consumption which happens in suicide and accidental inhalation.

It’s come to fore that in 2017, so far 11,087 cases of pesticide poisoning have been recorded in Maharashtra out of which 552 patients have died. Overall in India, 12,969 poisoning cases have been recorded but the number of deaths are not known.

As per records maintained by TOI, 40 farmers and farm hands working in the cotton fields of Yavatmal, Akola, Nagpur and Chandrapur died after taking ill while spraying pesticides. Over a thousand persons were affected and were treated for breathing, skin and eye problems in different hospitals of the region.

Doctors said at present no antidote is available for the pesticide mix made out of chemical combinations like Firponil-imidacloprid, difenthiron and glyphosate (the latter is a herbicide). The first two already figure in the list of chemicals which the state government has proposed to ban in the region.

“In such cases, the remedy is to only treat the symptoms and therefore the known antidotes for other chemicals were used,” said a doctor.

“For example,” said another doctor, “We know the drug to treat those who have taken ill after inhaling a profefonos-cypermethin mix. Atropine is the common drug for poisoning cases and it was given to all patients.”

Most doctors TOI spoke with said as farmers mix different pesticides the exact chemical which may have caused death could not be detected. This year the number of poisoning cases have been high.

Kulshreshtha said she cannot speak on the subject due to official compulsions. This reporter was present during the meet and interacted with many doctors.

Doctors pointed out that as per the data, Maharashtra had seen a high number of pesticide poisoning cases as compared to other states over the years. “Yet, no directives have been issued from the centre for preventing such cases,” they said.

Since 2012 when 579 deaths out of 6,599 poisoning cases were reported, the number of cases has nearly doubled in Maharashtra. In 2015 the deaths were 1,283 and in 2016 it was 2,180.

“Over the last six years, Maharashtra has accounted for more than 80% of the country’s poisoning cases,” said a doctor present at the meeting.

 However, Kulshreshtha said the issue is regularly taken up in zonal meetings.
 The doctors said cases of pesticide poisoning is a yearly affair in the rural and district-level hospitals. Last year in Yavatmal, 176 persons were admitted due to pesticide inhalation out of which six died. In Amravati there were over 100 cases but no deaths were recorded. “This year out of 150-odd, 2 have died,” said a doctor.
The doctors said that every year patients come for treatment due to pesticide inhalation problem and a majority of them get cured. “Despite the high number of admissions this year, the deaths are within 3%,” they said.

Doctors also added that post mortem reports over the years have not revealed the specific poison that caused the death.

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