Taiwanese researchers: Banning paraquat can help reduce suicide rate

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A research jointly conducted by National Taiwan University and a British university found that banning paraquat, a widely used herbicide in Taiwan, wi

A research jointly conducted by National Taiwan University and a British university found that banning paraquat, a widely used herbicide in Taiwan, wi

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--A research jointly conducted by National Taiwan University (NTU) and a British university found that banning paraquat, a widely used herbicide in Taiwan, will help reduce the suicide rate in the country following an advance announcement made by the country’s Council of Agriculture to ban the highly toxic agricultural chemical.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) announced Taiwan’s leading causes of death in 2016 a week ago. According to the MHW document, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in Taiwan in 2016 with 3,765 deaths, accounting for 2.2% of the total deaths.

A total of 467 suicide deaths were committed by using agricultural chemicals in Taiwan in 2016, accounting for 12% of all the self-inflicted deaths; and intake of paraquat was the mostly used method, with one out of every 19 suicide deaths being attributed to the chemical, according to the document.

The research jointly conducted by College of Public Health of NTU and University of Bristol found that from 2010 to 2014, 110,000 to 170,000 deaths around the world were attributed to intake of agricultural chemicals each year, accounting for 14% to 20% of suicide deaths worldwide.

The research team found that the government of Sri Lanka gradually banned two highly toxic pesticides and paraquat from 2008 to 2011, and the suicide deaths from using agricultural chemicals in the country decreased by 51% from 2011 to 2015. The team also found that since banning paraquat in 2011, Korea’s suicide rate has dropped by 37%.

NTU assistant professor Chang Shu-sen (張書森) said more than 1,500 deaths in Taiwan in the last 10 years were attributed to using paraquat, which averaged one death every two days. Nearly 60% of such deaths were caused by using paraquat stored at home under an impulse; and therefore a comprehensive ban is the only way to make the highly toxic chemical off limits, Chang said.