With the current swarm of locusts throughout Uganda and Kenya, there is a significant danger to residents who are consuming dead locusts that have been sprayed with pesticides, experts have warned.
The experts say levels of the pesticide Fenitrothion remaining in locusts are 74 times the European maximum residue levels even after boiling and drying dead insects.
Levels of Malathion residues were reported to be 2.5 times the European food safety level.
There has been a failure to warn residents of this danger despite widespread reports that residents are collecting, cooking, and eating large quantities of dead locusts.
“We are asking for the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in coordination with the government to take immediate steps to warn residents of this hazard,” said Ellady Muyambi, the Secretary-General for Uganda Network on Toxic Free Malaria Control (UNETMAC).
“In addition to our concern about direct exposures to improperly applied pesticide in occupied areas, there is a significant risk for those eating dead locusts after spraying,” added Muyambi.
Articles published previously in the scientific literature have consistently shown that pesticides in sprayed locusts can be extremely dangerous if consumed.
In one study where the sprayed locusts were not cooked, the reported levels for the commonly used pesticide Fenitrothion were 1,650 times the European limit.
Residents have been seen collecting, drying, and boiling dead locusts after they have been sprayed.
“There is significant hazard just from entering areas that have been sprayed before a 72-hour waiting period has passed,” said Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International (OK International).
“However, the potential pesticide exposures from consuming locusts after they have been sprayed can potentially be even more harmful than from entering these areas without waiting,” Gottesfeld added.
The experts said exposure to these pesticides can cause headaches, fatigue, loss of memory, nausea, thirst, loss of weight, cramps, and muscular weakness. More severe poisoning may also cause difficulty breathing, shaking, tremors, blurred vision, vomiting, and diarrhea.
“There is an immediate need for Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and Ministry of Health (MOH) to publicize these risks to locals in the impacted areas,” said Muyambi.