Pesticides Control Board re-doubling its efforts

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The Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Board will be taking a more aggressive approach towards ensuring that the laws governing the importation and management of harmful chemicals are enforced, as well as the implementation of a comprehensive public awareness campaign to educate residents about the proper use of chemicals.
The board is responsible for controlling the importation, sale, distribution and use of all pesticides and toxic chemicals in the country.
Chairman of the Board Dr. Linroy outlined the proposed measures during a news conference on Thursday; members of the media also had an opportunity to hear directly from other board members, representatives of the various government agencies, who are also involved in the management of chemicals in Antigua and Barbuda.
The open forum formed part of the Chemical Awareness Week which is being observed this week.
Dr. Christian warned that importation of unregistered chemicals will not be tolerated, adding that the board is only prepared to provide assistance to individuals as it relates to the licensing of operators and the licensing of businesses.
“This is where we will work with individuals with respect to the implementation of the various measures under the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Act and the regulations. As it pertains to any banned substances, there is an absolute zero tolerance,” Dr. Christian said.
The board chairman said the major issue at hand is the enforcement of the law and the institutional measures that will be put in place include: a board of inspectors who will be responsible for reviewing documents for chemical registration to ensure that the process is more thorough, improved surveillance and inspection and a communications plan to relay certain information for the public.
“The public is our biggest inspectorate and as people become more informed of some practices about what should and should not be on the shelves, I think people will make informed decisions,” Dr. Christian said.
For years, the board has struggled to put a stop to the illegal importation of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, getting people to register pesticides before they are imported into the country, reduce the public’s heavy dependency on chemicals, encourage people to properly label chemicals, using protective gear when handlining pesticides and harmful chemicals along with a myriad of other issues.
The board chairman said before instituting any ‘punitive measure’ people will be given an opportunity to follow the law.
During the forum board members highlighted specific challenges their specific departments are encountering as it relates to pesticides management. Dr. Janil Gore-Francis, head of the Plant Protection Unit, was the first to make her presentation, she said the use of pesticides should be a last resort.
She said one should know the pest they are dealing with and the best elimination because not doing so will negatively affect the environment.
Project Coordinator within the Ministry of Agriculture Gregory Bailey issued a call for more public education on the domestic level about the use of chemicals, stating that while farmers and other technical officers are trained in the proper use of chemicals, housewives and others at home are being exposed to cleaning agents and detergents which also contain harmful chemicals.
Dr Nneka Hull James, of the Veterinary and Livestock Division, pointed to the need for proper monitoring of importation of certain chemicals and closer collaboration between the different agencies.
“We have recognised that a lot of these pesticides that are coming in, especially for ticks, are also being imported through other agencies. Moving forward, we want to have better regulations to ensure all these products come through the Veterinary and Livestock Division so they can be properly monitored,” James said.
Principal Health Inspector at the Central Board of Health Jerome Greene expressed his department’s concerns about the inappropriate handling of materials containing asbestos, the operation of vehicle-body workshops in residential communities and the use of cleaning agents in some institutions which, he said, is leading to some air quality problems.
According to Greene, in some instances, most people are not properly trained on how to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.
“Individual projects should be developed and implemented for each of these areas of concern,” Greene recommended.
Dr. Christian explained that the members of the board are committed to working with the relevant agencies to tackle the issues outlined.

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