30 August 1996

Researchers want OP sufferers help in bone damage trials

By Tony McDougal

MEDICS at two of the UKs top research institutes are looking for farmers affected by OPs to test their theory that organophosphates can cause bone cell damage.

Laboratory trials by Stephen Hodges, of the Department of Human Metabolism and Clinical Biochemistry, Sheffield and Anthony Lyons, lecturer in orthopaedic and accident surgery, Queens Hospital, Nottingham, have shown that higher levels of pesticides in the body can lead to brittle bones.

The pair, who received funding from the Greenpeace Trust, found that OPs impaired mineralisation of bone and could severely affect the bone strength. They believe people living in country areas have higher levels of OPs, and their hypothesis is that long-term exposure to such chemicals carries the risk of severe metabolic bone disease.

In a letter obtained by farmers weekly, Mr Lyons said he had encountered in his practice a number of relatively young agricultural workers who had osteoporosis and had sustained fractures as a result of the disease.

Mr Lyons is currently drawing up a protocol for a further grant application to the EUcommission, but needs more practical examples to prove their hypothesis. "Obviously we would need willing subjects who would be happy to have both a blood test and a special x-ray scan of their spine or their hips, to look at the state of their bones.

"We would also like certain subjects to provide us with a small bone biopsy," he added.

Dr Hodges has also received funding from Greenpeaces German division to carry out work into the human side-effects of exposure to organochlorines.

Elizabeth Sigmund, chairman of the OP Information Network group, said there were a number of farmers who had complained of bone problems, and urged members to get in touch with Mr Lyons.

Ms Sigmund added that the British research backed evidence in the USA from Dr Abou-Donia, of Duke University, North Carolina, who published a paper three years ago claiming exposure to OPs caused bone damage.

The Health and Safety Exec-utive said it had not carried out any research into the OP/brittle bone link. MAFF is still studying a report from the Veterinary Prod-ucts Committee on OP products. &#42