Danger of locally-made insecticides
Alarm being sounded over the hazards and health risk posed by locally-made insecticides deserve some attention by government and relevant health agencies. This is imperative considering the prevalence of the insecticides and their wide patronage by Nigerians, who make use of them mainly on account of being relatively cheap and readily available. The problems posed are intrinsic because the environment in many parts of the country, especially Lagos is prone to mosquito, a major player in the malaria scourge decimating Nigerians by the thousands. Secondly, local production of insecticide should not be discouraged given its role in providing jobs, however menial, to those involved in its production and sales; and against the fact that even the more orthodox insecticides are often ineffective in eradicating mosquitoes.
What is probably critical is the need for some form of regulation and, importantly, education regarding safe use of locally-made insecticides. It must be stressed that improper use of insecticide is dangerous, whether the product is locally concocted or produced by recognised corporate organisations, even foreign. Basically, the contents of insecticides are chemicals of sorts, and are therefore predisposed to causing cancer, damaging some internal organs and related ailments. One core education Nigerians should learn about the use of insecticide is patience. Many Nigerians know about the warning on the package of the orthodox insecticide, but are simply too much in a hurry to keep away from the rooms for a minimum of an hour before retiring in them. This habit must be discouraged.
According to experts, the use of counterfeit insecticide poses a threat to human life and health, because it leads to the accumulation of toxins in human organs, which increases the risk of various diseases. They argue that in the short and long-term, counterfeit insecticides cause disruption of heart, kidneys, liver and endocrine system, leading to premature death.
Unregulated sales and use of locally-made insecticide can undermine the health of persons exposed to it. As such, the circulation of counterfeit pesticides has to be considered a new national threat to human health in a country with under-served health care.
In addition to being a threat to human health, counterfeit and contraband insecticides pose a risk to the economic activity of enterprises involved in good manufacturing practice, resulting in the circulation of products that do not meet quality standards, which may lead to reputational risks and direct revenue losses.
Counterfeit insecticide stands for non-standard, adulterated, falsely marked insecticide. The major characteristic is that some of its components are partially or fully altered; or some of its elements are partially or fully extracted, added or altered compared to the approved specifications. And unlike the orthodox insecticide, the chemical composition of counterfeit insecticides has not been studied, and therefore even a partial change in the physicochemical properties of the chemical components might increase its toxic effects.
To be fair, the sellers’ claim that locally-made insecticides are cheaper and effective in killing insects, mosquitoes and rodents are often true. However, the lure of lower prices is regrettably paying less for big troubles; because beyond the lesser issue of sacrificing branding and packaging, there are higher order issues, which centre on health concerns with implications for low life expectancy.
What is responsible for unending appearance of counterfeit insecticides? The appearance in the market of the counterfeit and contraband insecticides is caused by economic reasons, particularly the desire to maximise the benefits, lack of awareness and information about the dangers of counterfeit insecticides, and on the availability of the registered brands, gaps in national legislation and practice of insecticides management, and corruption.
Looking at economic reasons, the makers of the improvised insecticides, which are counterfeit may be applauded for their ingenuity, but because of the dangers to human life, regulation is imperative. As such the Ministry of Science and Technology should commission and work with local chemists and other scientists to carry out laboratory experiments on these counterfeit insecticides and present the laboratory results to form the basis of using scientific data to improve the product quality and make them safe for human use; and also avoid the loss of livelihoods.
Combating counterfeit and contraband insecticides should include measures on prevention, preparedness and response to infringements. There is a need for independent system of insecticides registration, the application of the system of customs risk analysis, disposal of obsolete and waste insecticide, its packaging, a regular sensitisation campaign among the general public about the threats of counterfeit insecticides, raids on and seizure of counterfeit insecticides, as well as the establishment of the “quarantine” warehouses.
Unless Lagos State government takes urgent steps through the relevant regulatory agencies, unrestricted sale and indiscriminate use of locally-made insecticides may lead to a surge on cases of cancer, kidney infection, and other ailments among residents of the state. Lagos State should also activate the use of sanitary inspectors in the state, because the root cause of the insects and rodents is poor hygiene.
Therefore, it is imperative for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the media, and non-governmental organisations to conduct a major sensitisation campaign to raise public awareness and knowledge on the dangers of counterfeit insecticides; and the benefits of hygienic environment as a preventive health strategy. NAFDAC must do more than raising awareness on counterfeit insecticide and address the fallout of its use on health and life expectancy.