Pesticide suicide is an act of someone poisoning themself with pesticides (often through ingestion) that results in death. They may or may not have intended to die.
Pesticide ingestion is one of the most common methods of suicide worldwide. It is responsible for an estimated 14 million deaths since the Green Revolution in the 1960s, when pesticides became widely used in small-scale farming.
It is a particular problem in rural farming communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where people have easy access to lethal pesticides.
Pesticide suicide has been recognised by the World Health Organization as a major global health problem.
Some pesticide are highly toxic and pose a significant risk to human health.
In rural communities, these pesticides are often sold locally without controls.
They are then stored in homes, or in the home garden, in reach of family and community members.
Vulnerable people living in rural communities are put at risk by the availability of highly toxic pesticides. In moments of crisis, when at risk of self-harm, they have easy access to lethal means of suicide.
Some pesticides are virtually non-toxic to humans. However, other pesticides are highly toxic and pose a significant risk to human health.
Highly hazardous pesticides are defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as pesticides that are acknowledged to present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or environment according to internationally accepted classification systems. This includes pesticides that are acutely toxic (posing an immediate and severe risk) to humans.
Ingestion of a highly hazardous pesticide is much more likely to result in death that ingesting a low toxicity pesticide.
There are a number of significant barriers that hamper pesticide suicide prevention in low and middle income countries.
In many countries, there is a lack of capacity to collect data due to immature surveillance systems. This includes crucial information such as which pesticides are most used for suicide. Pesticide suicides may also be underreported due to stigma and the negative consequences of reporting cases in countries where attempted suicide remains illegal or is widely thought of as illegal due to police involvement.
Pesticide ingestion hospitalizes over 2 million people every year. Treatment of patients is difficult to manage in hospitals, especially those with limited resources, and many patients die after they are admitted to hospital. Others die early - before they can access health care resources.
The most effective way to prevent deaths from pesticide self-poisoning is to restrict access to lethal pesticides. This is best achieved through regulation to ban or phase out highly hazardous pesticides.
A number of countries have already managed to dramatically reduce pesticide suicides rates through bans on acutely toxic highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).
Find out more about how and why bans on lethal pesticides work.