Pesticide poisoning is a global public health problem. An estimated three million acute poisonings occur worldwide each year. (1) Pesticide-related poisonings are more frequent and serious in developing countries despite the fact that pesticides are sold in greater quantities in developed countries. (2) One reason for this is the lack of rigorous pesticide control laws and of training programmes for pesticide inspectors and users in the developing world. (2,3) Farah has indicated that about 25% of developing countries lack laws regulating pesticide distribution and use, and about 80% have insufficient resources to enforce existing pesticide-related legislation. (4)
In Viet Nam, a developing country, pesticide consumption increased from 14000 tons under 837 trade names in 1990 to 50 000 tons under more than 3000 trade names in 2008. (5,6) However, pesticide control laws have not been developed and implemented in concert with these increases for several reasons, including a lack of administrative and enforcement resources; insufficient knowledge of the law on the part of regulators; a lack of incentives for making regulators enforce the law; limited environmental standards; and poor cooperation, coordination and consistency in implementing regulations on the part of the relevant authorities. (7) Nevertheless, the need to address these gaps and limitations has not been properly evaluated.
A market survey conducted by the Plant Protection Department in 2000 reported problems with improper storage and use of pesticides and a lack of knowledge about pesticide safety and regulations in Viet Nam. (8) The survey found 2800 pesticide retailers operating without a business licence; over 5000 retailers selling pesticides without having a store or stores failing to meet safety regulations; and the sale of 2500 kg of banned pesticides and of 10000 kg of illegally imported or counterfeit pesticides. In terms of occupational safety, a high percentage of farmers are unfamiliar with pesticide safety practices such as compliance with instruction on the label, proper spraying techniques, proper use of protective equipment and safe pesticide disposal. (9,10) Consequently, farmers are at high risk of being harmed by pesticide exposure. In a 2002 Study by Murphy, 31% of surveyed farmers in northern Viet Nam were found to have at least one symptom of pesticide poisoning. (9) In another study published in 2007, Dasgupta found that 35% of farmers in southern Viet Nam showed blood cholinesterase levels indicative of acute pesticide poisoning and that 21% of the farmers had chronic signs of poisoning. (10)
The objective of this study was to compare pesticide regulations in Viet Nam and the United States of America to identify ways in which pesticide regulation in Viet Nam can be improved. The study focused exclusively on pesticide regulation aimed at reducing occupational exposure among farmers. The United States was chosen as the reference country because it has established the benchmark for developing pesticide regulations. For this reason, the United States has a much lower rate of acute poisoning among agricultural workers than Viet Nam (53.6 versus 35 000 per 100000 population). (1,10,11) Moreover, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) model is well-established and posts information on its web site in English on pesticide regulations.
Data collection and analysis
Information on pesticide regulations was obtained from the relevant web sites, directly from management agencies and from published research papers. The pesticide regulatory information of the United States was found on the EPA's web site and in research papers. The pesticide regulatory documents for Viet Nam were obtained from the relevant official web sites, including those of the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, and from research papers. The keywords used to search the web sites were pesticide regulation (for English) and hoa chat bao ve thuc vat (for Vietnamese). …