Myanmar to adopt pesticide residue standard in drinking water

By Yamon Phu Thit
Volume 32, No. 628
May 28 - June 3, 2012

Workers load bottles of purified water for villages in rural Yangon Region affected by water shortages in April.
Pic: Kaung Htet

STANDARDS for pesticide residue in drinking water have been developed as part of a larger safe drinking water policy that will be adopted soon, a Ministry of Health official said at a workshop last week.

Government officials from various ministries and departments agreed on the standards for 14 commonly used pesticides were agreed on at the May 17-18 workshop held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon.

“We have set the guideline values for 14 pesticides that are commonly used in Myanmar and can harm human’s health. If the amount of pesticide is higher than the standard, it will be regarded as unsafe,” Dr Kyi Lwin Oo, deputy director of Department of Health’s Occupational Health Division told The Myanmar Times on May 18.

“We based [our standards] on the WHO’s guideline values. But we have to set the values based on what is suitable for our country,” he said.

Organised by the Ministry of Health with funding from the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), the workshop brought together officials from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Water Resources and Utilization, Department of Science and Technology Development, Yangon City Development Committee and state-run Myanmar Fishery Enterprise as well as representatives from domestic agrochemical companies.

The guideline values on pesticides will be applied in the Myanmar National Drinking Water Quality Standard, which is to be adopted soon.

The policy sets standards for acceptable levels of bacteria, organic and inorganic matter and arsenic in drinking water. “With our own standards, we can screen which drinking water is safe or unsafe. This will help to improve public health and awareness for safe drinking water,” Dr Kyi Lwin Oo said.

Last week’s workshop also recommended that the Pesticide Analytical Lab, operated by the Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection Division, be used as reference laboratory. The Occupational Health Division will also conduct tests of drinking water sources throughout the country to check for pesticide contamination, Dr Kyi Lwin Oo said.

“We will provide education programs and [take action] if we find usage of pesticides is too high or incorrect. In doing so, we can reduce the amount of pesticide in drinking water and then reduce the negative impact of pesticides,” he said.

He said it was important that drinking water was screened for pesticides given their prevalence in Myanmar and the possible health effects.

Long-term consumption of pesticide-contaminated drinking water can result in brain, breast, prostate, pancreatic and liver cancer, leukemia, neurological disorders, and problems in reproductive organs.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection Division, 1460 pesticides have been approved for use in Myanmar and staff officer Daw Khin Lay Zan said use was increasing rapidly.

“Pesticide use was 2874.69 metric tonnes in 2002-03 but it reached 11101.41 metric tonnes in 2011-12,” she said.

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data shows that use of pesticides is highest in Bago, Magwe and Yangon regions.