3 May 1996

OP expert attacks MAFF licensing system

By Tony McDougal

CALLS for a radical review of MAFFs product licensing system were made this week by a member of the governments medical and scientific panel on organophosphorus chemicals.

Dr Goran Jamal, neurophysiologist at Glasgow Southern General Hospital, said there was too much reliance on data supplied solely by the chemical manufacturer to the veterinary products committee, responsible for advising MAFF ministers.

Speaking at a briefing in London organised by the all-party OP group, Dr Jamal said licensing of products such as OPs, which are used in sheep dips, should be conditional.

More power should be granted to the VPC and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) for regular two-year reviews and a more balanced composition of independent scientists on the two organisations was needed. He also doubted the credibility of the governments test model used to license OPs.

Dr Jamal criticised the lack of independent and scientific knowledge on the toxicity of chemicals.

"We only have good toxicity data on 5000 of the 170,000 chemicals regularly used. There is also scientific ignorance of the interaction of relatively non-toxic substances," he said.

Criticism of the governments handling of OPs and lack of research was highlighted by Prof William McKenna, consultant cardiologist at St Georges Hospital, London.

Prof McKenna said he believed OPs were responsible for cases of heart disease in farmers. He came to the conclusion after treating Kent sheep farmer Gary Coomber, and said there were other OP cases showing severe cardiac abnormalities.

The conference heard consultant psychiatrist Dr Robert Davies reveal Spanish research which has highlighted a link between the use of OP chemicals and increased suicides.

Work carried out by Dr Tesifon Parron in Andulacia found that glasshouse workers exposed to OPs were four times more likely to commit suicide than the national average.

Dr Davies said most of the 34 UK farmers he had seen suffered extreme mood swings, depression and impulsive suicidal thoughts due, he claimed, to acute poisoning of the central nervous system. &#42