In the wake of contamination detected in imported pesticides and fertilisers, the food safety authorities have demanded that these substances be released in the market after laboratory tests.
In letters sent to the Department of Agricultural Extension and the National Board of Revenue, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority said imported pesticides and fertilizers would have to be tested at either the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission or the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research lab from February 1 next year.
It also requested the two authorities to stop releasing pesticide and fertilizer consignments from ports if contamination is detected.
The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority collected 47 specimens of pesticides and fertilisers from the market recently and had them tested at multiple laboratories. The test results showed the presence of heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium in the pesticides even though there should be no heavy metals in those compounds.
Experts have said heavy metals in pesticides and fertilizers enter the soil, water and crops directly and indirectly, polluting the food chain seriously to the detriment of public health.
In their opinion, people, especially pregnant women and children, are likely to be affected by brain diseases and cancer if such contaminants enter the body.
Jalaluddin Md Shoaib told The Business Standard that heavy metals in pesticides get mixed with the soil and then contaminate it.
"The crops produced in those lands also contain the pollutants which are harmful for human health," he added.
United Phosphorus (Bangladesh) Limited has registration for marketing a pesticide named UniZoom 50 WP. A lab test revealed that one kilogram of this pesticide contains 12.70 milligrams of lead and 3.65 milligrams of chromium.
ACI sells Brifur 5g. After tests on a sample of one kilogram of the pesticide, 2.90 milligrams of lead and 8.70 milligrams of chromium were found.
Intefa markets Fana5g. In a one-kilogram sample, the presence of two milligrams of lead, and 4.14 milligrams of chromium and cadmium were detected.
Sources at the Department of Agricultural Extension said more than 400 companies import pesticides and fertilisers from different countries at present, but there are no accurate data on the types of imported products.
The department only provides licences for importers, but never tests the imported pesticides.
AZM Sabbir Ibne Jahan, director of the plant protection wing at the department, told The Business Standard, "We have heard of pesticides being tested. When we get the test results, we will take action accordingly."
When asked whether pesticides or fertilizers were ever tested, he said, "We cannot carry out tests on them because of a lack of equipment. However, equipment is being made available to conduct tests".
Md Mahbub Kabir, member of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, said his agency tests pesticides and fertilisers.
"The level of contamination is detected through tests. We have been trying to find out how the earth and plants are being contaminated by heavy metals," he added.