Banning Some Pesticides Would Prevent Tens of Thousands of Suicides Per Year: Study

Pesticide poisoning is one of the leading methods of suicide around the world, but new research suggests that banning certain lethal materials may help prevent many of those deaths.  

In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet Global Health on August 11, researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K. are calling for a ban on highly hazardous pesticides worldwide, to help reduce the number of suicide poisonings which occur each year.

Researchers searched online databases MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase for studies published between Jan 1, 1960 and Dec 31, 2016, focusing on studies tat highlight the risk of suicide by self-poisoning from pesticides. Additionally, they investigated the effect of national or regional bans or import restrictions on various pesticides, as well as the suicide rate in comparison in those countries.

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Pesticide self-poisoning is one of the most popular forms of suicide, according to a World Health Organization report, which indicates that hanging is the leading method of suicide, followed by pesticide suicide, then followed by firearm suicide.

Overall, pesticide self-poisoning accounts for 14% to 20% of suicides worldwide and accounts for 110,000 to 168,000 deaths globally every year.

The new study focused on 27 studies in 16 countries, five low-income or middle-income countries and 11 high income countries. Countries included Bangladesh, India, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the U.K. and U.S., among others. The analysis focused on national bans of specific pesticides.

Researchers concluded that national bans on commonly ingested pesticides in five of the six low-or middle-income countries resulted in reductions in pesticide suicides. Three countries saw a drop in overall suicide rates after national bans.

In general, restricting the sale of certain pesticides also resulted in decreases of pesticide suicides.

Researchers indicate that highly hazardous pesticides are commonly taken in acts of self-poisoning. This is especially common among people in rural areas, where farming and agriculture is more prevalent and pesticides are stored in homes.

Study authors indicate those who opt for this method of suicide may “ingest pesticides impulsively in a moment of crisis.”

Typically in high income areas, agriculture is done on a large scale and not conducted frequently by most of the population. Thus most people don’t have easy access to highly hazardous pesticides.

In many cases, people who may experience the impulse to ingest pesticides during a moment of crisis may have the feelings of suicide subside before they can find another alternative to complete their suicide.

Oftentimes, those deterred from using one method will use a less lethal alternative, decreasing the chance of actual death and increasing their chance of survival. In fact, study authors noted less than 10% of people who survive a suicide attempt go on to take their lives in another attempt.

If the means of suicide, in this case lethal pesticides, is not available, many people will be prevented from suffering death, researchers predict. If a less lethal form is available that may not be as effective, this could give more people the chance for survival in the future.


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