Written by Doctora Graciela Gomez
Diseases presumably caused by agrochemicals are treated generically. Every doctor treating an intoxication has the obligation to declare it before the Health Ministry by means of a special form, the C2. Based on these forms, the Ministry will elaborate statistics and follow up procedures of each case”. This sentence from the ager-vouoc-nomos, said in Argentine Spanish (criollo) by a representative of agronomy, in one of the many notes, increasingly weak and with less ears ready to bear the supine, is still resounding.
Was the C2 form completed by the professional who examined Julieta and the other cases of identical malformations produced on the same date? Are these forms used by doctors in San Lorenzo, Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, Chaco, Bandera and so many places where human beings are fumigated like insects or exposed to death carried on by the wind?
One of the several Argentine health professionals, participating in the Pantriste practice rallies surprised my coleagues and friends from Paraguay by denying validity and qualifying the work of a group of Paraguayan scientifics ublished in the Official Petdiatric Paraguayan Society Magazine as insufficient.
The authors of that research are Dr. Stela Benitez-Leite and M.L. Macchi, members of the Pediatrics rofessorship of Medical Sciences University (FCM), Asuncion National University (UNA). Doctors Fernandez V., Franco D., Mojoli A., Cuevas F., Alfonso J. and Sales belong to the Enviromental Mutagenesis Laboratory, Exact and Natural Siences University (FaCEN) UNA and Doctor Ferro EA belongs to the Biochemistry Professorship of FCM-UNA.
These nine professionals concluded that there is celular damage in a children population attending a school bordering the test yard of Chemtec, the industry that manufactures agrochemicals in the Ñemby district, Central Department. Their survey found that the children population potentially exposed to released pesticides show a higher frequency of micronucleus, binucleated cells, karyorexis and pycnosis than those children who have not been exposed.
On her side, Professor Viviana V. Capranzarro, medical specialist in Toxicology, and an expert from Senasa in Argentina, expressed in her critic:
“The test of micronucleus in esfoliated cells of the oral cavity is a not-validated method which still offers multiple questions, so that its results are not completely valid, accurate or trustworthy technically speaking”.
With regard to criteria followed during the research, she explained that the measurement of resulting micronucleous was performed on 2,000 cells per individual, while the updated international bibliography states the number of cells to be analyzed should be 4,000.
“This survey is limited to a simple health enquiry”.
The fact is that the agrochemical factory had been given a certain time term to move its facilities to Villeta, according to Jose Luis Casaccia, Environment Minister of the neighbor country`s remarks to a radio station and it is stilll there. “The convenience and speed with which Chemnec obtained juridical resources and environmental certificates leads to suspect corruption”, the ABC newspaper stated last January.
Dr. Stela Benitez Leites agreed to grant me a special interview from Paraguay for the Argentine Association of Enviromental Journalists (AAPA) and she remarked:
“With regard to the journalist publication dated on December 10 on the ABC paper, I wish to make clear the following items:
a) In any investigative work, every responsible and serious critic from the scientific community is done through letters to the editor or requests for the publishing of articles to express necessary points of view. I don`t personally know Doctora Viviana Capranzano, but have been informed by the Human Rights Coordination of Ñemby that she is a toxicological advisor to the Chemtec factory.
b) On the other side, the investigative work denominated “Celular damage in a children`s population potentially exposed to pesticides” has been published in the Pediatrics Magazine of the Paraguayanb Pediatric Association, indexed under Scielo and Bireme and is available to all the academic community and it can also be reached through Google`s searcher.
c) As regards the contents of this work, it is worthwhile to make clear in the first place that when we refer to micronucleus we are considering the harm produced to the genetical material of the cells, that is to say, the micronucleus are ADN corpuscles which have not been incorporated to the cell nucleus during its division. These micronucleus are related to a higher risk or probability of developing certain degenerative diseases and/or cancer.
d) The test on micronucleus in oral cells is a tool for the biological control of harm in the ADN and it has been used since the `80s to show the citogenetic effects of environment, occupational exposures, life style factors, diet defficiencies and several diseases. The epythelial cells of mouth mucosa reflect the genotoxic effects on the basal layer during the 3 last weeks prior to the test. The Human Microneucleus Project (HUMN, see http:/www.humn.org) has started a validation international rocess for the MN test of mucous oral cells, similar to the ones prefiously performed using human lymphocytes, to unify griteria related to essay variability and technical matters.
e) The name of the test is clear: it refers to children`s pupulations potentially exposed to pesticies. It refers to the possibility of exposure or the existence of conditions which might be related to exposure.
f) Also, the work is not a “simple health enquiry”; its main objective was to determine, by means of an optical microscope, the number of micronucleus found in school-age children potentially exposed in a school located 50 meters from the Chemtec factory and compare them to those of school children attending school located at 5.5 kilometers from the same factory.
g) As about results, it is important to remark that what cannot be denied is the evidence of cell damage in children attending the school nearer the factory. Those children showed to have an average of 9.9 micr. versus 3.7 micr. (p< 0,00000) on children attending school 5.5 km. away from the factory.
h) The micronucleus test in oral cells has been performed in many cases with 2,000 cells, although it is also true that some researchers recommend to use 4,000 cells for such a purpose.
i) Finally, it must be stressed that evidences shown by the survey should not derive in and end in the simple criticism to some aspects of the study, but rather lead on to the broadening of the discussion and the need to establish two levels of responsibility: on one side, based on the worries and recommendations both from the Special Narrator about Right to Education from the United Nations and the Committee which surveys the application of the International Convention on Children`s Rights of the United Nations, the Paraguayan State has the obligation to apply “all the necessary measures, including surveys and evaluations, to face the extremely negative consequences of fumigation using fitosanitary products in rural communities”. And, in a short term, the State should report to the Committee on what has been done in that respecto to avoid being prosecuted. At the same time, it would be advisable that from the social responsibility perspective, the Chemtec company should carry out its own surveys so as to explain the presence of damages identified in the population studied and its responsibility. We need the State to asume its responsability as warrantor of rights and in that respect we are urged to request the performance of responsible and objective investigations as a daily routine. Life and dignity of people are not negotiable nor can be left aside; no private interest, least of all a commercial one can subordinate these principles to their ends.
My thanks to the interviewed is incommensurable, in view of Doctora Benitez Laites`multiple activities. She also participated with Doctora Machi in another invaluable survey perfomed in 2008, “Congenital malformations associated to agrotoxics”, which I always quote in my articles and which appears in Doctor Andres Carrasco`s papers, among others.
As part of that “other bibliography” which is not mentioned in so many irresolute reports which are published, we can mention “Risks of congenit malformations in women exposed to plaguicides in Nayarit State” by the group led by Dr. Medina Carrillo in Mexico, “Congenital Malformations and exposure to pesticides” by Doctors Rojas, Ojeda and Barraza from Chile.
We must also inform the reader that, within this bibliography deceitfully ignored by those who refuse to accept reality, there are several worthy reports from Argentine professionals, such as Dr. Gladis Trombotto, “Tendency of Major Congenital Malformations at the Maternity and Neonatology University Hospital of Cordoba City in the 1972-2003 period. An Emergency Problem in Public Health”, and the “Epidemiological Survey of Congenital Malformations”. Not less important are works by Simoniello MF, Mañas F. and Delia Aiassa, fundamental at the time or working towards a new regulation on the use of agrotoxics.
Maybe Dra. Viviana Crapanzano, a member of Work Team 5 of the Agrochemical Investigation National Commission, created by our lady-president, will be able to explain our first lady the incompatibility to be a speaker in forums organized by the local Rural Societies and Agronomic Engineer Colleges and those organized by Bayer Environmental Science.
Ask our president whether she will be able to solve her duality when she expressed in Chaco that “...there are coarse failures in the monitoring of those affected by plaguicides within our Public Health system”. Or, as she stated to a media of the province of Santa Fe that “..in the meanwhile, one alwlays talks of a mathematical formula. If risk equals exposure multiplied by danger, exposition must be lowered”.
I prefer to end my interview with this remarkable woman, who smiles at my acid jokes, with a sentence from Public Health Emeritus Professor from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Doctor Eric J. Cassell: “A doctor seldom cures, some times he aleviates, but must always comfort”, a sentence that resumes the medical activity, but also the greatness and misery of medicine.
Source: Argentine Association of Enviromental Journalists (AAPA) Medio y Medio
Photo: Doctora Stela Benitez Leites