15 April 1998
MAFF hears of 1,254 cases of OP poisoning

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has had a total of 1,254 cases of organophosphate (OP) poisoning reported to its Suspected Adverse Reaction Surveillance Scheme since 1995.

Some 602 of those reported are suspected to have been caused by sheep dip, although MAFF says nothing has been confirmed.

The Independent tells the story of Devon farm manager Jeremy Maynard who has suffered ill health since 1989 as a result of OP poisoning.

He is angry that farmers who used to dip sheep in OPs were rarely aware of the dangers involved. They were told that OPs were safe, and in a lot of cases the only protection they wore was a pair of rubber gloves provided with each five-gallon drum of sheep dip.

Inevitably, farmers across the country have been inhaling the fumes as well as getting the chemicals on their skin for years.

When Mr Maynard first started getting sick in 1989 he was diagnosed as having ME (cronic fatigue syndrome). It wasnt until blood tests were taken in 1995 that doctors made a different diagnosis – organophosphate (OP) poisoning.

By 1994 he could no longer work and his marriage ended. He now has daily injections and saunas to try and force the OPs out of the fat in the body cells, where they linger and cause problems with the peripheral nerves. He also has to endure weekly infusions which can take up to eight hours.

Mr Maynard is one of hundreds of farmers and former farm workers who have contacted the OP Information Network, a support group.

The OP Information Network is on 01579 384492.

  • The Independent 15/04/98 page 8