A farmer has warned of the possible dangers of chemical use after pesticide poisoning ravaged his health, leaving him seriously ill and unable to work.

Norfolk arable and beef farmer Peter Dixon was stunned when he was told he had organophosphate (OP) pesticide poisoning.

Learn from my mistakes, urges OP victim

He was diagnosed by David Dowson, then a Harley Street practitioner, who said Peter’s symptoms – tiredness, poor vision and erratic handwriting – were linked to OP poisoning.

Blood tests showed that Peter had a high level of toxicity in his body which Dr Dowson, who is now a private consultant in Bath, blamed on using pesticides, possibly the OP tetrachlorvinphos.

Peter suspected that he may have been poisoned after using the chemical to treat cattle but he could not be sure.

“I simply cannot pinpoint which pesticide may have poisoned me,” he said.

He added that he had been farming and handling pesticides for over 40 years and admitted there may have been occasions when he didn’t use protective clothing when handling chemicals.

Speaking for the first time about his illness, exclusively to Farmers Weekly, Peter called on others to learn from his story and take precautions.

“I always used protective clothing when handling pesticides but over the years there must have been the odd occasion when I didn’t,” he said.

“Chemicals are really good things and we all use them. But it’s crucial to take every caution possible when using pesticides.”

Sitting alongside his wife Gwen, Peter told how his illness made their lives a living hell.

About four years ago, he started getting terrible aches and pains in his joints, lost his appetite and around three stones in weight.

His health deteriorated so badly at one point he couldn’t work and spent a week in bed amid concerns he was suffering from cancer or another degenerative illness.

Gwen said: “He looked like a zombie. His eyes were sunk back in his head and his skin was a horrible yellow colour.

“He looked like death warmed over. His body was deteriorating and we thought he was dying.”

Peter visited his local GP who carried out blood tests but could not correctly diagnose his illness.

He was referred to hospital for more tests and was diagnosed with probable rheumatism in his knees.

Peter sought a second opinion from Dr Dowson, whom he visited in autumn 2008.

Peter said: “Dr Dowson tested my handwriting which was poor and now I understand why, because it [can be] a symptom of pesticide poisoning.

“He told me, ‘I’m almost certain that you have been poisoned by pesticide. It’s like your body is closing down’.

“I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me.”

In a letter sent to Peter in November 2008, Dr Dowson stated: “Tests show there is a high level of chloromandelic acid.

“This is a breakdown product from an organophosphate pesticide and the one suspected is tetrachlorvinphos.”

Dr Dowson performed an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) test to analyse the transfer of energy in Peter’s metabolism and found he was deficient.

Tests showed that the toxicity in Peter’s body was blocking the transfer of energy in muscle, tissue and cells, resulting in chronic fatigue.

Dr Dowson placed Peter on detox and homeopathy.

He also advised him to drink more than 1.5 litres of water a day, avoid alcohol and take saunas in a bid to excrete the poison from his body.

Peter, who has made a partial recovery, is about to undergo more detox and wants to get stronger.

“My health is 60% of what is was, but I’ll never be 100% fit again,” he said.

“I have lost a lot of power in my muscles and I can’t lift heavy items. I still ache and my memory will never be the same.

“But I’ve got my appetite back and if I can get to 75% of what I was, I’ll be happy.”

Peter hoped his story would offer hope to other farmers who may be suffering like him, who haven’t linked their illness to pesticides.

He said: “I’m sure there will be others in the industry thinking: ‘What’s wrong with me?’.

“They shouldn’t dismiss it as rheumatoid arthritis. It could be pesticide poisoning.”

  • Tetrachlorvinphos was withdrawn from use as a veterinary product in 1999.

    NFU president Peter Kendall is to allow access to his office’s archives in a bid to unearth information that may help farmers who believe they may been been poisoned by organophophates. More…