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JIS News

According to data from the Ministry of Health, the parish of Portland had 49 cases of chemical poisoning last year, the highest rate in the island, and in fact, was among the top five parishes with the highest rates in 2003 and 2004.
The other parishes were Westmoreland, St. Mary, St. Thomas and Trelawny.
Registrar of the Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), Hyacinth Chin Sue, told JIS News that although the parish did not have the highest incidence of chemical poisoning, based on the small population, the rate was not only high but it also warranted attention.
“They only had 49 cases last year, but because of the small population that translates into 0.03 per cent being poisoned, not just from pesticides but from other chemicals like bleach, which is common,” she informed.
As such, the main activities for Pesticide Awareness Week (September 24 to 30), will target Portland, under the theme, ‘Pesticide Registration: Facilitating Trade, Protecting Health and the Environment’.
On September 27 at 10:00 a.m. personnel from the PCA will make a presentation on the topic of pesticide safety, storage and handling, at the Mount Pleasant All-age and St. Margaret’s Bay All-age Schools, before heading to Hope All-age School at noon for a similar presentation. Puzzle sheets, pens, bookmarkers among other items will be distributed to the students.
Public Health Inspectors will benefit from a presentation by the PCA on pesticide regulations and management on September 28. This will be hosted at the Portland Health Department beginning at 10:00 a.m.
The major highlight will be an open forum at 2:00 p.m. at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), which will include four presenters and panel discussion.
Commenting on the collaboration with the parish health department and CASE, Mrs. Chin Sue said both entities were looking at ways to address the problem.
“They are coming up with some very interesting ideas about how they are going to deal with the distributors of bleach and other chemicals in the parish,” she noted.
One such idea, she said, was to encourage bulk distributors of chemicals to invest in tamperproof bottles. “You know that a lot of the bleach bottles and a lot of the fabric softeners in your home are not tamperproof. In some cases you even see the bleach and softeners in cooking oil bottles with cooking oil labels on the back, while bleach is marked on the front,” she pointed out.
A public education campaign, the Registrar said, would have to accompany any ideas implemented.
For the time being, however, Mrs. Chin Sue said monitoring systems were in place and that information received from the various clinics and health facilities in the parish was being collated. She acknowledged that while statistics reflected that Portland had the highest rate, “there was the possibility that there was better reporting of the poisoning cases there than in other parishes”.
“We are hoping that measurably, we will be able to say in a couple years that through the different interventions there will be a reduction in the number of cases in Portland,” she told JIS News.
As for the other activities to observe the week, a pesticides exhibition will be on display in the lobby of the Ministry of Health on King Street throughout the week. There will also be a daily presentation beginning on September 26 at 8:30 a.m. on pesticide related information at post natal clinics at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
In addition, there will be a presentation on the licensing process to pest control operators at the office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, St. James on September 26 at10:00 a.m.
Overall, pesticides in 2005 accounted for 13 per cent of confirmed cases of poisoning, while bleach was by far the most common agent implicated in the cases of poisoning.