Pesticide Use in the Rice Bowl of Kerala: Health Costs and Policy Options ,SANDEE Working Paper No. 20-07

Working Papers » Pesticide Use in the Rice Bowl of Kerala: Health Costs and Policy Options

By : P. Indira Devi

Abstract: This study examines pesticide use in Kuttanad, India, an ecologically sensitive area often referred to as the rice bowl of Kerala. Using primary data collected from pesticide applicators and farm labor, the study assesses short-term health costs associated with pesticide exposure. The study finds that the toxicity level and dose of pesticides can exert a significant effect on the health of pesticide applicators. The average expected health costs from pesticide exposure are Rs. 38 (US $ 0.86) per day or approximately a quarter of the average daily earnings of the applicator.

The study finds that health costs can be mitigated considerably by reducing the dose of pesticides used. For example, a 25% reduction in either the dose of the most toxic chemical used, or in all pesticide doses, results in a 16% and 24% reduction in health costs respectively. Dose reduction is a desirable and feasible strategy that can be achieved either by restricting the quantity of pesticide used or by diluting the amount sprayed with the recommended levels of water. Less than 2% of the applicators understood the toxicity levels of the pesticides they used. Thus, there is ample scope for reducing pesticide exposure through training and agricultural extension services.

Keywords :Pesticide Exposure, Dose-Response Functions, Cost-of-Illness, India

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