One of the key barriers to pesticide suicide reduction in low-income countries is a lack of capacity for effective pesticide regulation, such as gathering data on the specific HHPs most commonly used for suicide in the country and evaluating the risks and benefits of pesticides in use. An absence of systems for surveillance of pesticide poisoning constitutes a further barrier to decision-making. Since countries may register different pesticide formulations that are imported or produced locally under different names, each country needs to conduct its own assessment of what HHPs lead to most harm.
Because the overwhelming majority of pesticide suicides are impulsive (in one study, 47.6% of non-fatal suicide attempts occurred after less than ten minutes thought about the act ), means substitution is rare, and people rarely attempt suicide using other means. With the removal of HHPs from agricultural practice, pesticide suicides globally should fall from 150,000 per year to less than 50,000. We estimate that this will take between 5 and 10 years. Taking the more conservative time period, and a steady reduction over this time, a mean of 75,000 lives per year will be saved over 10 years.
There are other benefits from stopping pesticide poisoning. There are immense emotional and financial burdens for families after pesticide suicides. Preventing deaths, and allowing distressed people the time and space to find help, will markedly reduce these burdens. Fewer children will find themselves suddenly without a parent, with benefits for their development and education.
The reduced availability of HHPs will also reduce the number of cases of people getting poisoned by pesticides while working, either spraying the pesticides or working in sprayed fields. There will be less contamination of both food and environment, again offering marked benefits for children growing up in these communities. There will also be fewer cases of accidental poisoning of children as happens in communities using HHPs – for example, the 21 children who died in Bihar from a contaminated school lunch in 2013 .
The usefulness of pesticide regulation has recently been emphasised by the WHO who used the country example of South Korea to report its success.