Monday, August 24, 2009

Malawian Children exposed to tobacco plants suffer ill-health

An NGO that works in Malawi has completed an investigation of child laborers who work in the countries Tobacco fields. The study shows that the children suffer nicotine poisoning due to exposure of the plants. Plan International asks that the tobacco growers provide protective clothing to the children. Plan says that the exposure that is similar to smoking 50 packs a day.

From this summary of the report that we found at The Age, writer David Smith reveals more of the children's illnesses.

Plan International cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in southern Africa, with 88.9 per cent of five-to-14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector.

It is estimated that more than 78,000 children work on tobacco estates - some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than two Australian cents an hour and without protective clothing.

Plan International's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in workshops. They revealed physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.

The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness, or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.

''Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen,'' one child said. ''You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache.''

Green tobacco sickness is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting.

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