Children under 5 make up a quarter of people poisoned by pesticides in Croatia

Analysis of toxicological samples in poisoning cases should have a high priority, and the use of illegal pesticides in agriculture and poisoning of wildlife should be considered serious security threats, said Boleslaw Slocinski

  • 14.11.2023.

From 2006 to 2020, a total of 1713 cases of human poisoning related to improper use of pesticides were recorded, according to the available data. On average 114 people were poisoned annually and most cases were recorded in 2008 with 144 cases. On average 25,7% of those poisoned were children under 5 years of age.

As part of BalkanDetox LIFE project, BIOM collected data that shows the scope of pesticide-related poisoning issue. The following reports were published “Effects And Impact Of Misuse Of Pesticides On Human Health”, “Operational capacities of referent national toxicological laboratories in the Balkans” and “Study About The Illegal Use Of Poison In The Environment Of The Balkan Peninsula”. The collected data demonstrates the issue of easily available and widely used legal and illegal pesticides in Croatia.

Easily available pesticides poison children and adults

Adults make up the majority of those poisoned by pesticides (69%), followed by infants and children of pre-school age up to 5 years of age (25,7%), and school-aged children and adolescents (5,3%). It is especially worrying that every fourth case is related to a child under 5, which suggest improper storage and easy accessibility of pesticides. Based on the data, only two fatal cases have been recorded, in 2008 when a child was accidentally poisoned by Organophosphorus Pesticide (OPP), and in 2020 when an individual committed suicide by ingesting glyphosate.

Graph: Distribution of poisoning by age groups per year

Apart from the listed pesticides, data is available only for those pesticides that caused more serious clinical symptoms. The most common toxic substances related to cases of human poisoning in Croatia are glyphosate-based herbicides, followed by organophosphate-based insecticides. Unfortunately, the available data do not provide insight into individual cases of poisoning.

Illegal pesticides poison animals

Additional information on the presence of illegal pesticides in Croatia is obtained through toxicological reports related to poisoned wildlife. Between 2016 and 2021, the Forensic Science Centre “Ivan Vučetić” conducted toxicological analysis on 125 samples and confirmed that in many cases the cause of death was poisoning.

Golden eagle poisoned near Mazin

In those cases, toxic substances were identified as the cause of death, like carbofuran, metaldehyde, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, chlorpyrifos-methyl, chlorpyrifos-ethyl, methomyl, terbuthylazine, metolachlor, xylazine, ketamine, NaOH, KOH, cypermethrin, acetamiprid, brodifacoum, aluminium phosphide, Imidacloprid, Omethoate, Dimethoate, 2,4D acid i 2,4DP acid.

Carbofuran found in a grove near Mazin

Poisoning of wild animals is a very irresponsible practice that can poison the entire food chain. A relatively well known case happened in Rab in 2004, when 17 griffon vultures died due to one poisoned bait. In 2018, in Lonjsko polje Nature Park, 22 wild animals were poisoned with one bait – jackals, buzzards, and ravens. Very dangerous poisons such as carbofuran (Furadan) and methomyl (Lannate) are arriving to Croatia.

The use of illegal pesticides is terrorism

“This data demonstrates the need for better supervision of pesticides in Croatia, especially due to the presence of illegal pesticides in agriculture and their impact on wildlife poisoning. Analysis of toxicological samples in poisoning cases should have a high priority, and the use of illegal pesticides in agriculture as well as poisoning of wildlife should be considered serious security threats” says Boleslaw Slocinski, Biom’s expert on fight against crimes on nature.