'Alarming' Pesticide Levels In Argentina Water Supply
By Sara Jerome
Water contaminated by pesticides is taking a toll on public health in Argentina, according to a recent investigation by the Associated Press.
Doctors in the South American nation say "that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in [Argentina's] vast farm belt," the news service said.
The AP documented dozens of cases around the country "where poisons are applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law."
Water is a key conduit for these pesticides.
"A government study found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood," the piece said.
Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta, who lives in Santa Fe Province, filed complaints "alleging that students fainted when pesticides drifted into their classrooms and that their tap water is contaminated," the AP said. "She is struggling to get clean drinking water into her school."
The report noted that some households store water in chemical containers, unaware that this practice can poison their supply.
"It's very common, not only in Avia Terai but in nearby towns, for people to keep water for their houses in empty agrochemical containers," surveyor Katherina Pardo told the AP. "Since there's no treated drinking water here, the people use these containers anyway. They are a very practical people."
Most pesticides move by way of runoff, according to the EPA. They also move through leaching, which is when water moves downward from the surface.
"Runoff water may travel into drainage ditches, streams, ponds, or other surface water where the pesticides can be carried great distances offsite. Pesticides that leach downward through the soil sometimes reach the groundwater," the agency says. For a fact sheet on pesticides published on Water Online, click here.
As for Argentina, it is well-documented that the country's drinking supply is not in ideal condition. The Centers for Disease Control recommend travelers pack water purification tablets. The Guardian highlighted the issue as a long-term problem in a piece two years ago, noting the inequality of access to clean water.
"In Argentina, the availability of water far outstrips demand, yet 11 percent of the population still lacks piped water, while a large proportion of the rest squanders it without a second thought," the newspaper said.
Image credit: "Spraying a Soybean Field," © 2009 UnitedSoybeanBoard, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/