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Current Project

Chemistry and Human Health Division (VII)
Committee on Chemistry Education


Number: 2004-045-1-700

Title: Training of school children on pesticides and health - "Toxicology in the classroom"

Task Group
Wayne Temple

Members: Rahmat Awang, Nida Besbelli, John H Duffus, Birger Heinzow, Irma Makalinao, Maizurah Omah, Lutz Rexilius, and Fritz Schweinsberg

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides and other toxic chemicals because their bodies are smaller and still developing. Children also face greater exposures than adults due to their hand-to-mouth behaviors. Children living in farming areas or whose parents work in agriculture suffer greater pesticide exposure than other children. The aim is to contribute to the enhancement of chemistry education, and the public appreciation of chemistry by information and appropriate handling based on informed risk assessment.

Despite some non-chemical methods of pest control there is at present no alternative to chemical control. Pesticides are essential to farming economies, especially in developing countries and economies in transition, where adverse effects caused by weeds, diseases and pests are of greater concern. However there is a need to optimise the beneficial use of pesticides by minimising harm through better education about the risks of toxic substances. The project will improve the image of chemistry by associating IUPAC with educational material to reduce careless use of pesticides. The material should also enhance or even help to provide basic education in chemistry and basic toxicology in the classroom. The material will be targeted to chemistry/science teachers in the early years of secondary school. A main objective is to produce training materials for school children aged 9-13 on pesticides to teach them to understand the action of pesticides and the principles of safe handling and to protect themselves and others from harmful effects of pesticides.

The IPCS (International Programme on Chemical Safety of the World Health Organization) has developed a multilevel course for training in the sound management of pesticides for different group of people handling pesticides. The course material is intended for trainers and provides information on different levels from basic for people handling pesticides in anyway to advanced for technical and medical personnel. In developing world most people live in rural areas and childrens' exposure to pesticides is unavoidable since farms are homes as well as workplaces. The aim of the project will be: a) to educate children on protecting themselves from the harmful effects of pesticides; b) to give safety culture for future work that they potentially be involved in use of pesticides.

The training material will include general facts about chemistry, risk assessment, pesticides, safe handling, preventing contamination, protecting themselves and others from harmful effects, how pesticides could effect human health and the environment. The training materials would be prepared as CD-ROM, booklets and flip charts for use in countries with different level of development.

update Jan 2008 - Several meetings have been made in conjunction with this project (Berlin 2005, Prague 2006, Athens 2007). The distillation of these meetings has resulted in a prototype computer animation package developed at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (task group members Rahmat Awang, Maizurah Omah have considerable IT experience including designing programmes for educating school children on the risk of tobacco smoking and recently developed the IPCS multilevel course aimed at training in the sound management of pesticides). The animation is structured like a house where the student can progress through several topics (rooms) related to toxicology and pesticides. A second level (manual) provides basic information, a glossary, links and teacher aids.

The age group of 9-13 years was targeted since it is in the transition from guarded childhood to more independent youth and may be at higher risk, because of independent activities. Also this age group might be responsible to look after younger siblings and influence their behaviour.

Task group members (Birger Heinzow and John Duffus) also prepared an experimental design for teaching the dose response principle in the classroom. This experiment makes use of the suppression of seed growth by coppersulfate. A test run was conducted in Malawi and came up with several very valuable observations and recommendations to review and refine the existing material. Experimental amendments were made and the results will be used for the computer animation.

A compilation of existing material that might be of interest and suitable for education in the context of pesticide toxicology, including material from other organisations/initiatives, NGOs and the chemical industry was undertaken and will be included in the manual of the package.

Amendments to the prototype will include the addition of more short animated stories. The material will also be evaluated in accordance with the theory of learning. It is proposed to pilot this educational material and seek critique, advice and comments from users (teachers and students).

Finalisation, approval, and publication anticipated by the end of 2008.


Last Update: 5 February 2008

<project announcement published in Chem. Int. Sep-Oct 2005>


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