The results of a recent study have shown that people who are highly exposed to agricultural pesticides are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
The agricultural pesticides commonly used in China are organophosphates, which are in wide use in many lower income countries but have been banned in many Western nations.
It is well known that they are very dangerous if ingested as an overdose but there is also biological evidence that chronic low-grade exposure to these chemicals, which are very easily absorbed into the body through the skin and lungs, may have adverse effects on mental health.
Lead researcher Dr Robert Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London carried out the study in central/coastal China, a relatively wealthy area with a rapidly developing economy.
The study found that people who stored pesticides at home, i.e. those with more exposure, were more likely to report recent suicidal thoughts.
"Organophosphate pesticides are widely used around the world although are banned in many countries because of their risk to health," said Stewart.
"They are particularly lethal chemicals when taken in overdose and are a cause of many suicides worldwide.
"Our research findings that suggest that higher exposure to these chemicals might actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts provides further support for calls for tighter international restrictions on agricultural pesticide availability and use," he added.
The research team also included scientists from Tongde Hospital Zhejiang Province.