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Health/Environment Factsheet

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Health Effects (page 2)

There are many reports of illnesses associated with exposure to the spray chemicals. For example:

  • The Health Department in Putumayo published a preliminary health report in three municipalities targeted by spray campaigns from December 22, 2000 to February 2, 2001. According to the report, medical personnel in three local hospitals reported increased visits due to skin problems, gastrointestinal infections, acute respiratory infection, and conjunctivitis following spraying. (11)
  • In August 2001, a commission from a European Human Rights Organization found in a visit to the Province of Santanter that: "contrary to official declarations about the harmlessness of glyphosate, we were able to verify skin conditions (rashes and itching caused by the skin drying to the point of cracking) in both children and adults who were exposed directly to spraying while they worked their land or played outside their homes." (12)
  • Even in neighboring Ecuador, communities near the border have reported illnesses after aerial spraying on the Colombian side. In October 2000, the health center in Mataje (population 154), Esmeraldas, treated 44 local residents for skin and eye irritation, vomiting and diarrhea in the aftermath of spraying. (13) The Ecuadorian press also reported in June 2001, that the Marco Vinicio Iza hospital, in Sucumbíos Province, was treating 10 to 15 patients a day for skin, respiratory, and other problems that local doctors attributed to the spraying. (14) In September 2001, a class action suit was filed in U.S. federal court in Washington D.C. against DynCorp Corporation-the private contractor conducting the spraying in Colombia alleging that the spray campaign "caused severe physical and mental damage to Plaintiffs, their children, and other similarly situated lawful residents of Ecuador who have nothing whatever to do with the production of illegal drugs in Colombia." (15)

Economic Effects

Numerous reports indicate that the spray campaigns have destroyed or damaged legal farming production, including food crops, aquaculture projects, pasture, and other agricultural resources. Colombian farmers rely on these resources to feed their families from day to day.

  • The United Nations Drug Control Programme has collected extensive evidence confirming widespread reports that herbicides are being sprayed directly on small farmers' food plots. (16)
  • The Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman has reported that spraying destroyed crops in eleven government-sponsored crop substitution and alternative development programs, programs specifically intended to provide poor farmers with economic alternatives to drug crop production. (17)
  • An inspection and accounting by the municipal police in the single township of Valle del Guamuez (population 4289) in the Province of Putumayo found that 17,912 acres had been sprayed with herbicides as of February 21, 2001. Of this area, less than 12% was dedicated to coca cultivation. Crop losses included thousands of acres of bananas, yucca, corn, pasture, coffee, peanuts, fruit trees, timber, and vegetables. Forest cover was also destroyed and poultry, livestock, and farmed fish were made sick or killed. (18)

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11 Departamento Administrativo de Salud, Oficina de Planeación, Sección Epidemiología, "Efectos de la fumigación: Valle del Guamuez y San Miguel Putumayo," (February 2001).

12 Red Europea de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia, "Informe Sobre Los Efectos de las Fumigaciones y las Constantes Violaciones a los DDHH en el Valle del Río Cimitarra," Equipo Nizkor--Serpaj Europa, September 3, 2001. (Contact for more information.)

13 El Comercio, Quito, (October 22, 2000) cited in Adolfo Maldonado, Ricardo Buitrón, Patricia Granda, Lucía Gallardo, Reporte de la Investigación de los Impactos de las Fumigaciones en la Frontera Ecuatoriana. June 2001.

14 "La muerte viene del cielo," La Hora, Quito, (June 27, 2001).

15 Aguasanta Arias et al. vs. DynCorp, Class Action Complaint For Equitable Relief and Damages, Filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, September 11, 2001.

16 Cesar García, "U.N. Calls for Drug Crop Monitors," Associated Press (July 24, 2001).

17 Eduardo Cifuentes Muñoz, Human Rights Ombudsman, "Sobre el impacto de fumigaciones en 11 proyectos de desarrollo alternativo en el Putumayo," Resolución Defensorial No. 004, February 12, 2001.

18 Luz Angela Pabón, España, Municipal Police Inspector, Valle de Guamuez, Putumayo, Colombia "General Summary of Losses due to Fumigation through 21 February 2001."