Nearly 200 Taiwanese committed suicide last year by consuming the highly toxic herbicide paraquat, a National Taiwan University (NTU) academic said yesterday.
Of the 3,765 Taiwanese who committed suicide last year, 194 poisoned themselves using paraquat, NTU’s Institute of Health Behaviors and Community Sciences assistant professor Chang Shu-sen (張書森) said, citing data released last week by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
People consuming paraquat die painfully from pulmonary fibrosis, with their lung tissue growing thick and hardened, he said, adding that they can be described as dying from slow respiratory failure.
Sri Lanka’s ban on pesticides from 2008 to 2011 might have contributed to a 50 percent decrease in that country’s pesticide-related suicides in the four years that followed, Chang said.
NTU Hospital’s Yunlin Branch deputy director Liou Horng-huei (劉宏輝) cited clinical research showing that exposure to paraquat can lead to Parkinson’s disease.
The Council of Agriculture (COA) last month announced that the processing and import of paraquat would be banned from February next year, and its use and sale would be prohibited from February 2019.
Tightened management has proved ineffective in the past, the Department of Mental and Oral Health Director Shen Lih-jong (諶立中) said.
“The most effective way to prevent suicide is to restrict access,” Shen said, adding that paraquat is too easy for farmers to obtain.
Watching patients die after consuming paraquat is a nightmarish experience for any medical intern, he said.
Illness, financial difficulty and family conflicts are the primary motives behind farmers’ suicides, he said.
From 2010 to 2014, about 110,000 to 170,000 people worldwide poisoned themselves by herbicides or pesticides, which is the world’s third-most common suicide method, Chang said, citing statistics collected from 108 nations.
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