Azerbaijan workers poisoned in cotton fields for second time in a week
Two incidents of mass poisoning of cotton field workers occurred over the past week in Azerbaijan.
The first was on 10 June in Simada village, Saatli district. Twenty-four people were hospitalized, while some had to be sent to Baku for treatment. The second incident took place on 16 June in Seydimli village in the Terter region. Fourteen people were affected, with some sent to intensive care units in a critical condition. No deaths were reported in both cases.
According to preliminary data, the workers were poisoned by a chemical pesticide called Formula 5-FEC, which is used to control weeds.
The General Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal case under Article 249.2 – ‘Violation of Safety Rules in the Fight Against Weeds and Pests Which Entailed Grave Consequences’, as well as Article 314.2 – ‘Negligent Attitude to Official Duties’. The fields owners will be held responsible.
The Zerkalo news outlet [The Mirror] referred to Adam Aliyev, the deputy chief doctor of the Saatli district hospital, who stated that the workers were poisoned because they returned to the fields too quickly after the chemical was sprayed, while, according to safety rules, one needs to wait a certain time.
According to Telman Zeynalov, the head of the National Center for Ecological Forecasting, the land owner had to notify the local branches of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Sanitary and Epidemiological Service prior to using this chemical.
Over the past few years, the government of Azerbaijan has been paying special attention to cotton, hoping to make it one of the leading (and, respectively, profitable) areas of the non-oil sector.