In June 2014, death of 122 children caught worldwide attention. Their brain swelled which resembled acute encephalitis. We’ve been blaming the tropical fruit for the mysterious deaths of 122 children in Muzaffarpur region of India, but now the truth comes out to be entirely different from what we’ve believed. It turns out that it’s not lychee but the banned pesticide Endosulfan which is responsible for the untimely death of these children. This pesticide has been banned internationally.
The report published earlier this year in The Lancet blamed the annual outbreak on lychees, which when eaten on empty stomach by malnourished children can lower the blood sugar levels to dangerous levels, causing seizures and death. The report claimed that lychees contain toxins that inhibit the body’s ability to produce glucose. These toxins affected the children whose blood sugar levels were already low as they were not having dinner.
The latest report published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene revealed that a number of pesticides which are banned, like endosulfan are still being used. Children ate the unwashed fruit that fell to the ground and peeled the lychees using their teeth. The study was however, not able to show that each of the deaths was caused by the endosulfan or identify the pesticide which caused the deaths.
Similar practice of using endosulfan on cashew plantations in Kerala’s Kasargod district has caused a generation to be born with physical deformations and congenital disabilities like hydrocephalus, diseases of central nervous system, epilepsy, cerebral palsy. The pesticide is sprayed using helicopters over the cashew plantation, which further enters the water cycle, thus affecting the entire population consuming the water.