Taiwan’s paraquat ban has led to a fall in pesticide suicides, early analysis shows

A recent study on the impact of Taiwan’s 2018 paraquat ban has shown a fall in pesticide suicide rates. Paraquat is a highly toxic pesticide that is deadly when ingested and a leading method for suicide worldwide, responsible for 150,000 deaths every year.

Taiwan introduced a first stage ban on paraquat in 2018, restricting its import and production. Prior to the ban, pesticide poisoning was responsible for 12% of all suicides in the county.

Researchers from the National Taiwan University in Taipei and the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention examined data on suicide rates in Taiwan. They identified deaths from pesticide ingestion and, more specifically, from ingesting paraquat.

They found that Taiwan’s ban was followed by a 37% reduction in pesticide suicides in 2019, mainly due to a 58% reduction in paraquat suicides.

The researchers also found no obvious changes in crop yield, suggesting that agriculture and food production have not been impacted by the ban.

The lead researcher, Professor Shu-Sen Chang said:

“Since the ban was brought in, there have been calls to lift the regulation, with claims that it would have no effect on suicide. This research is therefore both urgent and important.

Our findings clearly demonstrate that, even at an early stage, the ban on paraquat is having an impact on pesticide suicide rates in Taiwan. This is consistent with previous observations in both South Korea and Sri Lanka, where bans on paraquat have also been introduced.”

The study examined the short-term effect of the 2018 ban. However, it was still legal to sell and use paraquat in 2019, before its complete ban in February 2020. The Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention with its partners in Taiwan are now conducting further research to understand the long-term impact of the full ban.

The research was published in Clinical Toxicology.