SEMARANG – Environmental health experts from Diponegoro University (UNDIP) revealed that the impact of environmental pollution is closely related to children’s development. Fertile women and babies who are exposed to pesticides have a higher risk of developing stunting.

Undip’s Faculty of Public Health lecturer, Dr. dr Suhartono Apoina Kartini Budiono MKes, said the results of his research in Brebes Regency during 2017 show that this shallot-producing area was the highest pesticide user in Indonesia, even the highest in Southeast Asia. The study found that pesticide exposure was a factor in the occurrence of stunting in elementary school children (D).

Technically speaking, the OR value shows 3.9, which means that the risk factor for children exposed to pesticides is 3.9 times greater than that of children who did not get exposed to pesticides. Exposure to toxic substances in the environment including heavy metals and pesticides is the main trigger for stunting.

According to Suhartono, the reason of why this research is being carried out, among others, is because of the 2013 Riskesdas data that recorded the incidence of stunting in Brebes have reached 40.7%, which is the highest in Central Java. Another reason is the focus of handling developmental disorders in children which are more related to infection issues, especially gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea) or respiratory infections (ARI), so that the control program from environmental aspects focuses on improving environmental sanitation such as clean water and latrines; even though exposure to pesticides also greatly contributes to the incidence of stunting in an area.

Stunting in an area must be viewed from a more comprehensive perspective, by looking at the various factors, from lack of nutrition, infection, and exposure to toxic substances from the environment such as heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants. Pesticides are believed to be one of the factors that cause stunting because they can interfere with the function of hormones that play a role in growth, such as IGF-1 or Insulin Growth Factor-1 (Boada et al 2007) and thyroid (Diamanti-Kandarakis et al 2009). Both hormones are very important during growth process, and one’s development.

As a reference, the results of research conducted by Undip in 2010 also concluded fertile women with a history of exposure to pesticides due to their involvement in agriculture have a 3.3 times risk of suffering from hypothyroidism (Suhartono, et al., 2010). Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid hormone, causing the thyroid hormone levels to be insufficient resulting the disturbance of its process of growth and development, and if she becomes pregnant, the fetus in the womb can be disturbed.

“One sign of this hypothyroidism disorder is an enlarged thyroid gland or a goiter. This has an effect on children’s learning capability.” Said Suharno during an online seminar with the theme “Government Response to the Efforts to Accelerate Post-Pandemic Stunting in Central Java” organized by the Health Research Center (Puslitkes) Institute for Research and Community Service (LPPM) Undip, Tuesday (22/9/2020).

Suhartono reminded that pesticides may enter the body through the skin, the respiratory tract during inhalation process, as well as the mouth or digestive tract. The entry of pesticides will interfere with the function of growth hormone and cause oxidative stress thus resulting most of the intake of protein to be used up to overcome this stress issue.

Another impact of the entry of pesticides into the body is the disruption of absorption of food in the digestive tract resulting to absorption of nutrients to be disturbed. This condition causes children who are exposed to pesticides to experience growth issue or stunting.

At this seminar other sources were present including the Deputy of Human Development, Society and Culture Ministry of National Development Planning Head of the National Planning and Development Agency, Dr. Ir Subandi Sardjoko MSc who delivered a discussion on “Government Policies to Accelerate Post-Pandemic Stunting Reduction”; then the Chairperson of the Central Java Health Office, Dr. Yulianto Prabowo MKes, who explained “The Stunting Profile in Central Java and the Nutrition Program During the Pandemic”. The researcher from the LPPM Undip Research Center for Health, Nuryanto SGz MGizi, delivered an explanation “Studies on stunting in several regions of Central Java”.

Nuryanto, S.Gz, M.Gizi from (Puslitkes) LPPM) Undip emphasized the importance of optimizing the results of academic studies as a source of information for local governments which are expected to be material for further studies.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Central Java Health Office, Dr. Yuliyanto Prabowo Mkes, said that during a pandemic, the government guarantees that the rights of children and pregnant women to receive quality health services can be realized, but in a form and method that is adjusted to health protocols.

“Nutrition intake and stimulation, early detection and intervention are very important in determining children’s growth. For this reason, stunting infants must be treated properly before passing the first 1000 days of life, so that the impact of stunting can be minimal and can approach the quality of normal infants of their age,” he explained.