12 September 1997

OP group presses to meet MPs from five departments

By Tony McDougal

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for the abolition of organophosporous sheep dips have called for a meeting with senior politicians across five government departments.

The OP Information Network claims the effects of OPs on human health have been widely documented proving damage to exposed farmers.

Elizabeth Sigmund, OPIN chairman, said she and consultants would like to meet politicians from the departments of health, environment, trade and industry and ministries of agriculture and defence.

"The reasons for such a meeting is that concerns relating to the widespread use, licensing, monitoring, disposal of residues and medical handling of these substances come under these differing ministerial responsibilities.

"The funding of UK research into these various aspects of OP effects on our population must be shared between these departments if any logical progress is to be made in coping with this serious subject."

Although OP campaigners and scientists met farm minister Jack Cunningham and junior farm minister Jeff Rooker at the end of July, Mrs Sigmund said there had been little progress over the summer recess.

The call for an inter-departmental meeting follows a decision by the legal aid board last week to grant Gulf war veterans a £400,000 package to enable medical tests for poisons, including OPs, to be carried out by scientists at laboratories in London, Glasgow, Nottingham and North Carolina in the US.

Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Executive has launched a campaign on randomly selected farms in north Yorks and Durham to ensure proper controls and safety precautions are taken during dipping.

Mel Raine, HSE principal regional agriculture inspector, said inspectors would be checking to see that control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) regulations were being complied with.

"Farmers may be asked to justify the use of certain substances. In particular, we are interested in the safe use of organophosphorus substances and the risk assessments which should be carried out before use."

Mr Raine said inspectors would look to see how farmers could protect themselves from the dip tub and mist from the sheep when they shake themselves and examine protective clothing.