A number of countries have managed to dramatically reduce pesticide suicides rates through bans on highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).
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Sri Lanka’s pesticide regulations have contributed to one of the greatest falls in suicide rates ever seen in the world.
It has reduced its suicide rate by more than 70% (or 93,000 lives) through a series of regulations on pesticides since 1995. Having peaked at 57 pesticide suicides per 100,000 population in the early 1990s, its incidence is now 17 per 100,000 each year and continuing to fall.
At the Future Policy Award 2021, often referred to as the ‘Oscar on best Policies’, Sri Lanka was awarded a special accolade in recognition of the policies adopted to regulate HHPs.
China has also seen a remarkable reduction in the number of pesticide suicides over the last 20 years.
In the 1990s, there were an estimated 180,000 pesticide suicides each year, often in young women. Recent estimates suggest that there are now around 50,000 annual deaths from pesticide self-poisoning annually.
The cause of this reduction is likely to be a combination of pesticide regulation to ban major HHPs, brought in around 2002, and migration of people from rural communities to the cities.
Pesticide suicides have long been a major problem in Bangladesh, killing thousands of people every year. Around 20 years ago, the Bangladesh government started to introduce laws to control the use of pesticides.
In the 1990s and 2000s, 21 HHPs were partially or completely banned. The rate of suicide from pesticide poisoning then fell significantly (a 65% decline) between 1996 and 2014.
It is estimated than 35,000 deaths have been prevented between 2001 and 2014 as a result of the bans. The benefits of these regulations are still being felt today.
South Korea has the highest suicide mortality rate among all Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries. Between 2006 – 2010, pesticide poisoning accounted for 21% of all suicides.
The herbicide paraquat was responsible for most pesticide suicide cases throughout the 2000s. In 2011, the South Korean government banned the sale of paraquat. Over the next two years, pesticide suicides halved from 5.26 per 100,000 population to 2.67 per 100,000, saving an estimated 847 lives.