Environmental hazards of coffee, tea, cocoa and spices production

Other Names:
Health hazards from manufacture of coffee, tea, cocoa and spices

Green coffee beans arriving bagged from the plantations may have been fumigated with bromomethane or other halogenated or organophosphorous pesticides. Solvent extraction of caffeine employs trichloroethylene. Pesticide and solvent poisoning both occur to coffee handlers. Disposal of solid wastes from instant coffee, tea, cocoa, and similar preparations may cause pollution of water courses. Environmental hazards arising from cultivation of these crops include destruction of forests and wildlife. Additional damage is done in the human environment by excessive consumption of caffeine-bearing liquids: coffee, tea, cocoa and some soft drinks.


At least 30 different pesticides are known to be used on cocoa plantations, several of which (lindane, paraquat, chlordane, heptachlor and parathion) are either known carcinogens or banned in developed countries. The pesticides are usually sprayed by hand, without proper protection.

Fermentation of the cocoa beans after harvest requires that palm fronds, banana or plantain leaves (basket fermentation) or raised platforms of sticks (heap fermentation) be constructed. This results in the defoliation and cutting of trees and bamboo, which can increase soil instability. For each tonne of cocoa beans harvested, the production process generates nearly ten tonnes of pod husks which can be either discarded or maintained within cocoa groves as organic fertilizer (the latter practice, however, has been found to encourage certain plant diseases).

Grinding mills, roasting and other processing of spices, cocoa, coffee and tea present a number of hazards. They include flying particles (such as hulls, stems, leaves and other impurities) and dusts and powders. Strong aromas produced in storage or manufacture can be considered air pollutants as they cause some people to become nauseated.

Using coffee
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 15: Life on Land
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST