FARMERS SAY they have found it difficult to be diagnosed with OP poisoning because many doctors are not familiar with the phenomenon.

Peter Tyrer, an animal health inspector from North Wales, said he took part in a documentary on BBC2 after he was diagnosed with chronic OP poisoning.

After it was screened he received 200 letters and calls from people who believed OP exposure was the cause of their ill health. “About 90% of them wanted to know how they could be diagnosed,” Mr Tyrer told farmers weekly.

He said lack of knowledge among doctors about OP poisoning was a problem, and it was only with the financial help of his trade union that he himself was enabled to search for and find a specialist who could give him the right diagnosis.

“The Department of Health should make doctors in rural areas aware of the problem,” Mr Tyrer said.

George Richards, a stockman and shepherd from south Devon, realised something was wrong 13 years ago when his body started shaking and he was unable to stop it.

Over the years since then he has experienced blackouts, speech impairment, mental disorientation and loss of physical co-ordination, to mention just a few symptoms. “I have found out that some of the symptoms are often triggered by how I use my arms,” he said. “I can”t lift my arms or stretch upwards, for instance when I go shopping and want to take something from the shelves. If I do, I can lose my voice and start feeling like I”m falling. So I have to control my arms,” Mr Richards said.

Cornwall farmer Colin Parsons has been involved in sheep dipping all his life, and in 1993 he realised something was wrong when he started to feel disorientated and weak.

Initially, he told FW, doctors thought he was an alcoholic. But he has since been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and receives a small disability allowance. He let out his farm from 1994 to 2002 and sold it last year.