MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Silent Invaders: Pesticides, Livelihoods and Women's Health
Miriam Jacobs & Barbara Dinham, Eds., forward by Clare Short
London, England: Zed Books, Ltd., 2002
342 pp., $25.00, Paperback
ISBN 1-85649-996-0

Women in developing countries bear the burden of placing food on the world's tables. In fact, over eighty-five percent of the pesticide applicators in developing countries are women. This book describes the role of women in agriculture and how pesticides affect their lives and health, allowing for increased visibility of the importance of women's roles in the agriculture. It also explains why women respond so differently to pesticide exposures when compared with men, due to their physiological differences.

In developing countries, pesticide applicators don't have access to information on the pesticides that they apply and there are few if any regulatory standards. Yet, developing countries face perhaps the most daunting task of this century--feeding their hungry and looking for methods in which to provide for sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. Chapters within this book cover the unacceptable working conditions of the world's poor, who are commonly tasked with the unpleasant and risky business of food production.

The book highlights the struggle between the chemical companies who profit from the sale and use of pesticides and public health advocates. While public health advocates are attempting to understand the health consequences of low levels of chronic exposures to pesticides, chemical companies are discounting all but the most acute pesticide exposures. Public health advocates' concerns about human health effects from pesticide applications continue to be countered by chemical industry representatives emphasizing the threats of mass disease and death.

Historically, the pesticide industry remained unchallenged until 1962 when Rachel Carson came out with her book, Silent Spring. Since the publication of her book in 1962, the United States government has created agencies to regulate pesticides, cautioning users to apply pesticides according to label instructions. However, the book explains that regardless of how pesticides are applied, the environmental and health risks are underplayed. Low levels of exposure to pesticides are linked to chronic diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders, and birth defects, among others.

This book is the perfect sequel to Ms. Carson's Silent Spring, and provides an in-depth look at the chemical industry, developing countries' pesticide application practices, and policies that can and should be implemented to protect women's health.

— Kitty Richards

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London, N1 9JF
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"Some people in the community were behind mining, [they] thought, mining is good for money. Some Navajo families were compensated for [past] mining on their lands. They were rich for a while. But it seems like to Navajos or native people, it's not good for us. As of today, I've seen these families suffer; many are gone from alcoholism, and [many] didn't spend the money in the right way. There's nothing there, now they're suffering again. This is almost where we're headed again. In the long run, I think it's not made for the native people to be so rich off the Earth. Uranium mining, it's like it's an omen."

--Mitchell Capitan,
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining

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