Feature Public Health

Death by insecticide

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2029 (Published 28 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2029
  1. Subhankar Chatterjee, sixth semester MBBS Student, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, India,
  2. Haris Riaz, researcher, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan
  1. Correspondence to: H Riaz harisriaz73{at}yahoo.com

Organophosphate containing pesticides cause many deaths by poisoning in rural India. Subhankar Chatterjee and Haris Riaz consider the problem

The Times of India recently reported the suicide of a 72 year old security guard with chronic illness and depression who had ingested an organophosphate insecticide at home.1 In another incident, a 45 year old cotton farmer with money worries ingested insecticide and died.2

Such media reports represent only a fraction of actual cases.3 Worldwide, an estimated 750 000-3 000 000 people are deliberately or unintentionally poisoned by organophosphate chemicals a year, with an estimated 300 000 deaths.4 And in India the annual number of cases of organophosphate poisoning might be as high as 76 000.5 Organophosphates are implicated in an estimated half of all admissions for poisoning to Indian emergency departments.6

“It is a major public health problem”

Reports of organophosphate poisoning are increasing in the medical literature.7 “It is a major public health problem as it [organophosphate pesticide] is the most common agent used all over India as a suicidal poison,” T K Bose, head of forensic medicine and toxicology, College of Medicine and J N M Hospital, West Bengal …

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