Thessaloniki – Despite warnings from experts around the world that many agricultural chemicals are linked to numerous cancers, reduced fertility, allergies and other ailments, farmers continue to spray crops without protecting themselves. Data presented at a conference on agricultural chemicals organized by the Technical Chamber of Greece show that only one in 100 farmers uses protective face masks, glasses and aprons while spraying. Underestimated danger Dr Kyriaki Machaira, a toxicologist at the Benaki Phytopathology Institute, told the conference: «Measurements of farmers’ exposure to sprays in Greece show that the real level is higher than that used to evaluate the danger. The means of protection recommended are not always suitable, and Greek farmers in general underestimate the danger and do not take the necessary precautions.» In an attempt to cut production costs, an unknown number of Greek farmers use agricultural chemicals that have been illegally imported over the past two years from Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and other non-EU countries. The Macedonia-Thrace Agriculturalists’ Association has complained that agricultural chemicals of dubious provenance are sold as much as 30 percent cheaper than legal products. Risky EU products Pesticides of doubtful safety are also available within the EU. Some Italian pesticides without a permit were found in rice fields in Thessaly. Laboratory tests have found traces of fertilizers that have been banned for decades. Tests of 125 samples of 13 kinds of vegetables (imported and domestic) carried out last year by Thessaloniki University’s Environmental Pollution Control Laboratory for organic phosphate products such as methyl parathion, which have been banned since 2002, detected residues in 38 percent. Of those, traces of two substances were found in 17 percent. The samples came from local markets, supermarkets and greengrocers’ stores. The vegetables most often affected were carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.