16 July 1999

OP victims anger at ill-informed advice

By John Burns

VICTIMS of organophosphate (OP) poisoning have reacted angrily to advice from the NFU, the National Sheep Association, and NOAH (Livestock, July 9).

North Devon farmer Shirley Bray said: "Peter Rudman of the NFU must be told that many of his members have already done what he now recommends – tell their doctors they suspect OP poisoning and take product labels and other information – and were told there was nothing wrong with them.

"It is time the NFU in London realised what the truth is. Our south-west NFU director, Anthony Gibson, certainly does and he said publicly some years ago that there was a serious health problem with OP dips."

Mrs Bray also challenged NSA chief executive, John Thorleys, advice that those who knew they had a health problem with OPs should choose an alternative product.

She quoted from a MAFF booklet, The safe use of poisonous chemicals on the farm, revised in 1975, that said: "The repeated use of pesticides, even in small quantities, can have cumulative effects which may not be noticed until a dangerous amount has been absorbed. This applies particularly to chemicals in the organophosphorous group."

That contradicted the advice that the main risk was from sheep dip concentrate, she said. The booklet also said: "It is undesirable on general grounds for an operator who has been removed from contact with a chemical in a particular group on medical grounds to be transferred to work with another pesticide in a different group."

Mrs Bray and her husband, Gordon, were early victims of OP poisoning and found they also had adverse reactions when they changed to using a non-OP dip.

Jim Candy, a farmer from Cornwall, told farmers weekly: "I defy John Thorley or Steven Dawson of NOAH to guarantee the health of anyone using OPs.

"It seems as if they are putting the health of sheep before the health of farmers and shepherds. Surely it would be better to cure a sheep of scab by shooting it than risk OP poisoning, which results in depression so severe it could drive someone to shoot themselves." &#42