9 June 1995

Evidence mounting for Ill-health direct link

MOUNTING evidence suggesting a direct link between OP dips and human health is extremely worrying, NFU deputy president Tony Pexton told the seminar.

"Two years ago a review of OPs by the Veterinary Products Committee, commissioned by the government, resulted in advice that there was no scientific justification for banning OPs, but nevertheless asked that greater care should be used when handling them.

"Despite this we have members reporting breathing difficulties, nausea, dizziness and even paralysis. And, indeed, most recently a Health and Safety Executive report, commissioned from the Institute of Occupational Health in Birmingham, identified what were called subtle effects on the nervous system in users.

"This NFU finds the mounting evidence suggesting a direct link between OP dips and human health problems extremely worrying," said Mr Pexton.

The farmers dilemma, while there is no effective alternative to OPs for sheep scab control, is whether the safeguards are effective and practical, he added.

"There is a strong view amongst many sheep farmers that the safety equipment and clothing required to provide, as HSE advise, adequate protection, would make it physically impossible for the farmer to do the job."

Later Mr Pexton said the NFU was "absolutely determined" to maintain the momentum carried by the meeting and it would agree a joint statement with the BMA (see panel).

"It is the first of a series of many meetings between the NFU and BMA on this issue, because there is an awful lot of work to be done," he added.

There was a great deal of research work needed and a database to collate all available information on OPs would be "hugely helpful". There was also a need for a single adverse reaction reporting scheme and more information on the issue for family doctors or GPs.

The NFU was committed to pursuing common interests with the BMA on the OP issue and they were the only two organisations able to take it forward and increase existing knowledge of the subject, he said.

&#8226 Farmers must tell their GP if they have been using OP dips if they complain of health problems they believe could be related to OPs

&#8226 The Department of Health must make GPs fully aware of the allegations linking OP dips with human health problems

&#8226 A national database should be set up to collate all the information about OPs, the symptoms of OP poisoning and possible links with human health

&#8226 The NFU and BMA believe there is a need to consider a simple reporting system for sufferers and a single centre for them to report to

&#8226 The Department of Health and the safety authorities must give the issue a high priority.