Monday, August 24, 2009

poisoning children for capitalism

Children picking tobacco in the fields of Malawi for consumers far beyond the African country's borders are being poisoned as they absorb up to two cigarette packs' worth of nicotine each day, a children's rights organization said.

The "extremely high levels of nicotine poisoning" produces not only nausea, headaches, dizziness, difficulty in breathing and other symptoms but "long-lasting changes in brain structure and function," London-based Plan International said in a report.

More than 78,000 children, some as young as 5, work on tobacco estates across the southern African country, some up to 12 hours a day for less than 1.7 cents an hour and without protective clothing.Large-tobacco production has shifted from the United States to developing countries like Malawi, where "children are being exposed to exploitative and hazardous working conditions." Malawians are so poor that many families send their children to work in the fields.Tobacco is an important cash crop in Malawi, generating 75 percent of foreign exchange income. More than 80 percent of Malawians are directly or indirectly employed by the tobacco industry, which contributes up to 30 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

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