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Open Access Research article

A central storage facility to reduce pesticide suicides - a feasibility study from India

Lakshmi Vijayakumar123*, Lakshmanan Jeyaseelan4, Shuba Kumar5, Rani Mohanraj5, Shanmugasundaram Devika4 and Sarojini Manikandan6

Author Affiliations

1 Sneha, Voluntary Health Services, Chennai, India

2 University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

3 Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

4 Department of Bio-statistics, Christian Medical College, Vellore, India

5 Samarth, 100, Warren Road, Chennai, India

6 Raju Nursing Home, Usman Road, T. Nagar, Chennai, India

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:850  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-850

Published: 16 September 2013

Abstract

Background

Pesticide suicides are considered the single most important means of suicide worldwide. Centralized pesticide storage facilities have the possible advantage of delaying access to pesticides thereby reducing suicides. We undertook this study to examine the feasibility and acceptability of a centralized pesticide storage facility as a preventive intervention strategy in reducing pesticide suicides.

Methods

A community randomized controlled feasibility study using a mixed methods approach involving a household survey; focus group discussions (FGDs) and surveillance were undertaken. The study was carried out in a district in southern India. Eight villages that engaged in floriculture were identified. Using the lottery method two were randomized to be the intervention sites and two villages constituted the control site. Two centralized storage facilities were constructed with local involvement and lockable storage boxes were constructed. The household survey conducted at baseline and one and a half years later documented information on sociodemographic data, pesticide usage, storage and suicides.

Results

At baseline 4446 individuals (1097 households) in the intervention and 3307 individuals (782 households) in the control sites were recruited while at follow up there were 4308 individuals (1063 households) in the intervention and 2673 individuals (632 households) in the control sites. There were differences in baseline characteristics and imbalances in the prevalence of suicides between intervention and control sites as this was a small feasibility study.

The results from the FGDs revealed that most participants found the storage facility to be both useful and acceptable. In addition to protecting against wastage, they felt that it had also helped prevent pesticide suicides as the pesticides stored here were not as easily and readily accessible. The primary analyses were done on an Intention to Treat basis. Following the intervention, the differences between sites in changes in combined, completed and attempted suicide rates per 100,000 person-years were 295 (95% CI: 154.7, 434.8; pā€‰<ā€‰0.001) for pesticide suicide and 339 (95% CI: 165.3, 513.2, pā€‰<ā€‰0.001) for suicide of all methods.

Conclusions

Suicide by pesticides poisoning is a major public health problem and needs innovative interventions to address it. This study, the first of its kind in the world, examined the feasibility of a central storage facility as a means of limiting access to pesticides and, has provided preliminary results on its usefulness. These results need to be interpreted with caution in view of the imbalances between sites. The facility was found to be acceptable, thereby underscoring the need for larger studies for a longer duration.

Trial registration

ISRCTN: ISRCTN04912407

Keywords:
Pesticides; Suicide; Centralized storage facility; Community intervention