Press Release 99/31
FAO WARNS OF THE DANGEROUS LEGACY
OF OBSOLETE PESTICIDES
Rome, 24 May -- Like a "time-bomb", huge stocks of dangerous obsolete and
unused pesticides in Africa and the Near East will pose a threat to humans
and the environment until 2030, if funding for waste disposal remains at
today's low level, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned.
FAO called upon governments and industry to increase their efforts and financial
support to solve this environmental problem. The statement was made on the
occasion of a donors meeting (24-25 May) in Rome.
It is estimated that there are several hundred thousand tonnes of obsolete
pesticide stocks worldwide, with more than 100,000 tonnes in developing
countries. FAO estimates the amount of pesticide left-overs in Africa at
20,000 tonnes. The situation is particularly dangerous in Poland with 65,000
tonnes and the Ukraine with over 23,000 tonnes.
The lethal legacy of obsolete pesticides stocks continues to threaten human
health and the environment, FAO said. "In many African countries, where FAO
is involved in the disposal of hazardous pesticide stocks, metal drums filled
with pesticides are leaking and corroding," said FAO expert Alemayehu Wodageneh.
"Various accidents related to pesticides are quite common and widespread.
Often drums are stored in the open, next to food stores or markets and easily
accessible to children. Deadly chemicals are contaminating the soils, ground
water, irrigation and drinking water. These 'forgotten' stocks are a serious
risk, they could cause an environmental tragedy in rural areas and big cities.
There is hardly any developing country that is not affected by the hazards
of obsolete pesticides," Wodageneh said.
Particularly in Africa, an enormous variety of pesticides have been imported
by developing countries either donated by aid agencies or governments. Some
stocks are over 30 years old and can no longer be used because they are banned
or they have deteriorated as a result of prolonged storage. Further reasons
for the accumulation of pesticides are: the inability to forecast pest outbreaks
and excessive donations; inadequate storage facilities and poor stock management,
ineffective or wrong pesticide formulations and aggressive sales practices.
Among the highly toxic and persistent pesticides identified were Aldrin,
DDT, Dieldrin, Endrin, HCH, Lindane, Malathion, Parathion and many others.
Since 1994 around 3,000 tonnes were disposed of in 14 African and 2 Near
East countries. "If the removal continues at the same speed as in the past,
we shall need more than 30 years to finish the clean-up of obsolete stocks
in Africa and the Near East. This would only include the removal of metal
drums and other containers, but not the more difficult disposal of contaminated
soil," FAO said.
So far, around $24,4 million have been spent on the removal of pesticides
in Africa and the Near East, FAO said. The clean-up was mainly funded by
the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, South Africa, the US Agency for International
Development (USAID), Sweden and FAO. To clean all obsolete pesticide spots
in Africa would cost between $80-100 million, FAO said. To remove one tonne
of obsolete pesticides in Africa costs between $3,500 and $4,000.
Up till now the agro-chemical industry contributions were very limited, FAO
said. Of the chemical companies, only Shell International contributed around
$ 300,000 for a disposal of Dieldrin in Mauritania. "This is one percent
of the total amount spent so far on the clean-up in Africa and the Near East,"
Wodageneh noted. "The chemical industry is far from fulfilling its commitments
to pay one US dollar per litre/kg for the removal of obsolete pesticide stocks
in Africa and the Near East."
"The support from industry is crucial for the future disposal of pesticides
because aid agencies of donor countries cannot cover all costs without a
substantial contribution from the industry. FAO therefore urges the companies
to renew their commitment and to participate more in future disposal
FAO has started preparations for future clean-ups in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
For Ethiopia, USAID announced a financial contribution of one million dollar,
the Netherlands has pledged $2 million, and Sweden indicated the possibility
of contributing one million. Donors are urging governments in developing
countries to take concrete steps to avoid the future accumulation of obsolete
The safest way to dispose of obsolete pesticides is high temperature
incineration, FAO said. Safe incinerators are rare in developing countries,
and pesticides are re-packaged and shipped to a country with a hazardous
waste destruction facility. In the past, waste was shipped to Europe.
FAO warned that the accumulation of hazardous pesticides in the environment
will continue unabated as the worldwide annual sales of pesticides are still
increasing substantially, especially in developing countries. FAO called
upon its members to apply environmentally friendly Integrated Pest Management
methods and to drastically reduce the use of pesticides, where this is possible.
For more information please contact: Erwin Northoff, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105,
You can listen/download the sound of an interview with Dr.Alemayehu
Wodageneh (FAO Senior expert on Obsolete Pesticides), produced by Erwin
1/In RealAudio(Realplayer G2): 447 Kb,Instant play but lower quality than
2/In mp3(with any mp3 player,Quicktime 4.0 or Windows Media Player):
(Broadcast quality, 1.702 Kb to be
For more enquiries, contact Eric Deleu (tel: 00 39 06 57 05 68 63)