FARMERS WHO claim to have suffered ill-health after exposure to organophosphate-based chemicals have had their argument bolstered by the findings of a leaked report.
The report, by a federal panel of medical experts in the USA, is based on new research.
It points to a probable link between OP-based chemicals and health defects suffered by soldiers who fought in the 1991 Gulf War.
That finding contradicts all previous research which blamed the symptoms of pain, fatigue and memory loss on stress.
“A substantial proportion of veterans are ill with conditions not explained by wartime stress or psychiatric illness,” an excerpt leaked to the New York Times said.
Federal panel chief scientist Professor Beatrice Golomb said that exposure to certain substances in The Gulf may have altered some troops‘ body chemistry.
The probable cause, the panel said, was exposure to toxic chemicals including pesticides used to protect troops and exposure to the nerve gas Sarin.
One US expert on so-called Gulf War Syndrome, Robert Haley, described the panel‘s findings as a “revolutionary change”.
“Although it‘s not proven, the preponderance of the evidence supports a new explanation – brain cell damage, nervous system damage, caused by chemical exposures,” said Dr Haley.
In the UK the report has been hailed by anti-OP campaigners as a breakthrough in the fight to prove farmers have also suffered long-term health defects after OP exposure.
“British farmers have suffered the same health problems as Gulf War soldiers.
“This is a breakthrough for all those who have suffered,” said Elizabeth Sigmund from the campaign group the OP Information Network.
Chief scientific adviser to the Gulf Veterans‘ Association in the UK and emeritus professor of medical chemistry Malcolm Hooper added: “This new research means we must now look further into the claims of farmers.”
Explaining that Sarin and OPs have a biologically similar action, Prof Hooper added: “We need a long-term survey using newly-developed brain scanning techniques that can look deeper into the brain stems of the farmers who claim they have been affected.
“The technology is there to do it and unlike previous research which focused on farmers still working, we need to focus on the very ill farmers – the ones who have not been able to work.
“We owe it to these people after the hell they have been through,” said Prof Hooper.
But a spokeswoman for the National Office of Animal Health insisted that OPs used in farming were safe.
“I‘m not aware of the new research but the term OP covers a huge range of products.
“The ones chosen as sheep dips are designed to do that job specifically and have gone through years of checking.
“They are subjected to close scrutiny by the Veterinary Products Committee,” she said.