Just last week 120 school girls in Jand district of Attock were rushed to the hospital on Thursday following an anti-dengue fumigation campaign at their school. This week the number of school girls who fell unconscious during an anti-dengue fumigation campaign being carried out at their school in Domeli, Jehlum has risen to 120. The Chief Minister of Punjab was livid at the alarming incidences, which were the consequence of utter neglect.

He has ordered the suspension of five senior district officials, including Jhelum’s district coordination officer (DCO), the EDO health, EDO education, the town municipal officer and the Dina assistant commissioner. The Chief Minister has also ordered that the samples of the spray from both the Domeli and Attock schools be sent to laboratories abroad for analysis and further action would be taken in the light of the results of those tests. It is alarming that the spray was not already tested for human safety.

The girls felt dizzy and fainted due to the high levels of exposure to the pesticide and experienced severe respiratory problems and disorientation at the hospital later. Health effects of pesticides can cause both acute and chronic problems and should on no accounts be taken lightly. Acute health effects appear shortly after exposure to these pesticides and can cause headaches, dizziness and disorientation as was witnessed in these cases and in severe exposure incidences, death. Chronic health effects may not be apparent until months or years after exposure. Such health aliments include nervous, reproductive, and immune system disorders, and cancer.

Ignoring all qualms of health and safety has become a norm in Pakistan. All pesticides and spray that are to be used in public areas should be tested for safety. Additionally, the government should take precautions not to spray at times during the day when people are out and about. Such negligence by authorities responsible for administering the spray is just not acceptable.