Most Residents of Laos’ Xiangkhouang Province Contaminated by Agricultural Chemicals: Officials

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
A farmer plants maize by hand near Sam Neua, Laos, in a file photo.
A farmer plants maize by hand near Sam Neua, Laos, in a file photo.
AP Photo

The majority of residents of northeast Laos’ Xiangkhouang province likely contain residue from pesticides or herbicides in their blood, officials confirmed recently, adding that further tests are needed to determine the level of contamination that has affected the public.

In January, the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (Luras)— a non-government organization (NGO) under Swiss aid group Helvetas—published a report which said preliminary tests had found contaminant residue in the blood of 96 percent of Xiangkhouang residents.

Luras’s findings showed that 960 out of 1,000 people tested in July 2017 had some level of residue in their system from pesticides or herbicides—nearly 50 percent of whom are consumers of market produce.

Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service last week, a Ministry of Public Health Food and Drug Department official, Soubin Phimmahthut, said that additional testing is needed to conclude how much contamination Xiangkhouang residents have been exposed to.

“We have sampled blood in the first stage through test-kits [in the field] to verify whether or not contamination exists,” he said.

“But we still don’t know what level of residue is there, so we will need to undertake further tests in the lab.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, more than 100 metric tons of pesticides and herbicides—including Cypermethrin, Carbaryl, Glyphosate, Atrazine, Paraquat, and Metsulfuron—were imported into Xiangkhouang’s Nonghad and Kham districts alone between 2004 and 2015 as part of a bid to improve the commercial yield of the province’s 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of maize.

“The chemical substances … were mainly used in maize cultivation, and less applied for other crops,” Ianlang Phanthanivong, head of the crops division for Xiangkhouang’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, told RFA.
Ianlang said that officials from his ministry had recently tested 600 samples of fruits and vegetables from local farmers and markets throughout Xiangkhouang’s seven districts and found more than half of them to be contaminated by pesticides and herbicides.

“The reality is that the residue [in residents’ blood] comes from consumption—not from the use of pesticides and herbicides directly,” he said.

“The main factor is that people consume contaminated vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and other foods that are locally produced and distributed.”

According to Ianlang, provincial authorities have launched a campaign providing support to regional farmers in cultivating crops without the use of chemical substances.

“We are working to support crop cultivation without chemical substances—meaning organic agriculture with locally available compost, and clean agriculture production with the use of chemical substances that can be controlled,” he said.

National issue

The bid to end pesticide and herbicide contamination in Xiangkhouang follows the Lao government’s passage of a law to control the use of chemical substances and a decree by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides in November 2016 and August 2017, respectively.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bounkhouang Khambounheuang told RFA that the government had worked to implement the decree on the control of pesticides and herbicides throughout the country’s target provinces.

“This is to promote good agriculture practices, and we have sent the list of all prohibited pesticides and herbicides to the relevant provincial departments so that they can be controlled,” he said.

“We are currently monitoring all pesticides and herbicides, and have completely prohibited those lacking certificates of safety standards. In particular, Paraquat—which is prohibited globally—is not allowed to be imported to Laos.”

In 2016, the Ministry of Public Health took blood samples from 700 students and teachers throughout the country and found that nearly half tested positive for residue from pesticides or herbicides at levels considered “unacceptable” or “dangerous.”

That same year, the ministry took blood samples from 400 secondary students and teachers in the capital Vientiane and found that 58 percent of those tested showed residue at the same levels.

The ministry said at the time that the use of pesticides and herbicides in Laos had increased by around 200 percent over the previous decade as local farmers worked to increase crop production to commercial levels.

It expressed concern that the substances posed a serious danger to the brain development of the country’s children, noting that consumers are more likely to be affected by contamination than the farmer who use them.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (4)


from Krypton

Laos is already owned by China. Laos is a property of China. Sad, but true.

Mar 11, 2018 11:31 PM

Anonymous Reader

Corrupt leaders will do and has done anything and everything to line their pockets! More maize crops equal more money for corrupt gov't. 100 years from now, LAOS will still be the backward country it is today with one exception, rule by Chinese! China sweet infrastructure projects will reap all of tiny LAOS resources and Laotian children will scavenge thru trash piles for recyclables to stay off starvation. Chinese residents will be Laotian maids and gardeners for their huge mansions with 5 car garages. Only paved roads will be between Chinese residents and their cheap Laotian labor factories! One CHINA to rule them all (south east Asia nations except for Thailand).

Mar 09, 2018 12:33 PM

Anonymous Reader

Lao government you put Lao people in danger because of your ignorance. Please go and never come back. Take your money and go somewhere where you can live a peaceful life spending your US dollars. Your people deserves better than ignorant tyrants who have been governing their country for 43 years. Enough is enough. Ciao

Mar 06, 2018 09:42 AM


from Vientiane

by the time they stop using chemical they may not have any Lao children left with good health and the Lao population will keep increase by replacing by China and Vietnam Population who move in there and live there quietly That is another form of INDIRECT INVASION.

Mar 05, 2018 09:00 PM

Anonymous Reader

Dear Lao Salard from Vientiane, your country is dying. I hope Laos will have enough money to buy a casket and I hope people will at least show up at its funeral which I doubt. ;( ;(

Mar 06, 2018 09:46 AM





More Listening Options

View Full Site