Paraquat not needed in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 2:06am

I refer to the report ("Deaths of dogs may see ban on paraquat", November 18). I completely support the ban of this dangerous herbicide Gramoxone.

As a former registration manager of a large multinational corporation, I was involved in the registration of Gramoxone in various countries and the company took a lot of precautions to avoid misuse. However, it is shocking how people in Asia commit suicide by taking paraquat.

I have spoken to people who took it, but were found in time and brought to hospital. What is tragic is that even those who do succeed in killing themselves will not die immediately.

The lung is the target organ for the active ingredient and will slowly deteriorate over a period of 10 to 14 days.

During this period the person might have a change of heart and want to go on living, but in most cases it is too late, because there is no known antidote available and they face a a terrible death.

Further, if undiluted paraquat is handled without the proper safety measurements being taken (for example, without gloves) it could damage someone's skin or they could lose fingernails.

Also the degradation in soil is very slow and the DT50 value (degradation time where 50 per cent of active ingredient is degraded) amounts to several years.

I do not understand why the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department is not banning this compound immediately. There are much less dangerous and more modern herbicides available which are registered in Hong Kong.

We have minimal agriculture and this product is definitely not needed in Hong Kong.

Paraquat has been banned or severely restricted in many countries around for a number of years.

Why does the department still feel it has to monitor the global development with regard to regulation of paraquat?

Your report said that the department would gather information to help it decide whether the registration of Gramoxone should be cancelled and that if restrictions were imposed further use of Gramoxone would be subject to regulation under a permit system. Why?

If the product has been banned it is banned and no sales can continue. Only a registered product can be restricted, but not a banned one.

It is my hope that the responsible officials will arrive at the only decision that is right and acceptable and ban this dangerous product.

Hans Dieter Osten, Ma On Shan