MUMBAI: India’s 2011 ban on endosulfan may have contributed to nearly 30,000 fewer suicides from pesticide ingestion, suggests a recent analysis.
The researchers estimated what suicide rates might have been in 2011-14 based on trends from previous years, and then compared those projections to actual numbers for that period. They found 20,146 fewer men and 8,418 fewer women suicides from pesticides than expected.
Much of the decline, however, was offset by a parallel increase in suicides by hanging and other methods of poisoning, the study found, resulting in a much smaller decline in overall cases. Among men, 92% of the decline in pesticide suicides was offset by an increase in other methods, most notably hanging.
“The findings suggest that the (pesticide) ban helps reduce suicides, but other methods need to be addressed as well,” said Vikas Arya, researcher at the Translational Health Research Institute in Australia and the lead author of the study.
The rising trend of hanging precedes the 2011 ban and is unlikely to replace pesticide ingestion, Arya said. He and other researchers say urbanization and media coverage could contribute to the rise of the hanging.
Underreporting of suicides, especially in rural areas, can also distort the picture. A recent analysis by Arya et al found that the National Crime Record Bureau’s age-adjusted suicide rates were 37% lower than the Global Burden of Disease Study estimates.
Asian countries such as Sri Lanka have seen a sharp drop in suicide rates following the pesticide ban. A new World Health Organization (WHO) – A funded modeling study for 14 countries, including China and India, found that bans on highly dangerous pesticides are a cost-effective method of reducing suicide.
The analysis, released Thursday, found that national bans on such pesticides in the 14 countries could result in 28,000 fewer suicides annually at an annual cost of $ 0.007 per capita. This decrease equates to a potential 6.5% reduction in suicide deaths among these 14 countries by 2030, the study says.
“The more prominent pesticide suicides in any country, the cheaper it will be,” said WHO study co-author Michael Eddleston, director of the Center for Pesticide Suicide Prevention to the University of Edinburgh, adding that this would work for “low intention” pesticide suicides.
Another analysis by Eddleston et al this year also found a decline in pesticide suicides in India following the 2011 endosulfan ban, with sharp reductions in Kerala, where more than 10 pesticides have been banned in recent years. The study found no impact on agricultural production.
The scale of the national decline was astonishing, Eddleston said, as the ban covered only one pesticide and not one commonly used in suicides. “The recent bans should have a bigger impact,” he said. India banned 18 highly toxic pesticides in 2018.
Much of the decline, however, was offset by a parallel increase in suicides by hanging and other methods of poisoning.