'Dangerous' pesticides being sprayed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 1998, 12:00am

Pesticides banned in parts of Europe and the US are being sprayed in the SAR with no regulations governing their use on private land, environmentalists claim.

An industry spokesman admitted most cleaning company employees 'would not even know' what chemicals they were spraying.

Results of a Friends of the Earth investigation to be published this week claims 20 out of 27 pest control firms did not know the dangers of the chemicals they sold.

Sixteen of the 27 companies are members of the Pest Control Association.

Nine companies refused to give more information about pesticides, the survey found.

While several firms refused to reveal the effects of their chemicals, others said 'commercial secrets' prevented their disclosure. The investigation found the Health Department was consulted every second day on the use of pesticides and their side-effects.

About 24 chemicals registered in Hong Kong had been banned in parts of Europe and the US, the group's One Earth magazine said.

It called for tighter controls on the pest control industry, which relies on a code of self-regulation drafted by the Pest Control Association. Support has come from the industry itself, which is urging the introduction of a licensing system.

Pest Control Association vice-president Jackson Chan Chak-shum said the group wanted all pesticide users to be licensed by the Government.

'At the moment, cleaners can apply these insecticides and I don't think most of them have been trained,' Mr Chan said after meeting Occupational Health and Safety officers to discuss his proposal.

'Ninety per cent would not even know what they were spraying.' However, Agriculture and Fisheries officials have said more monitoring of the industry was 'not urgent' and training and public education were greater priorities.

A Tin Shui Wai resident complained to his management company when he saw a worker spraying something emitting a 'strange smell' at the public garden near his home.

He was told the cleaning contractor was using sprays registered and permitted for use by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.

The widespread use of pesticides and herbicides came under scrutiny after US musician Kristan Philips, a former member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, was awarded $24.5 million for injuries suffered from inhaling pesticides used at the Hong Kong Academy of Arts 11 years ago.

His suit called for damages from the orchestra, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Ciba Geigy, the manufacturer of Diazinon and the chemical suppliers.

A senior fisheries officer said pesticides on sale had been passed as safe for use.