A STUDY OF people who believe they have become ill following exposure to organophosphates (OP) in sheep dip has been published by DEFRA .
The results from the study suggest that most reported illness is among those who have experienced high OP exposures at one time or another.
It was found, however, that their lifetime cumulative exposures were not unusually high compared with other exposed workers.
The survey of health complaints among 367 sheep dippers was carried out by Dr Tony Fletcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The results are published in the report “SHAPE: Survey of Health and Pesticide Exposure”.
Dr Fletcher concluded from the study that it is plausible that the ill-health of many of the sheep dippers is related to, or made worse by, their OP exposure history.
But he also said the methods of self-selection into the support groups, and hence into the study, could generate similar findings even if exposure to OPs had not caused the neurological damage found.
Dr Fletcher said there was no way of distinguishing reliably, from within this study, whether or to what extent OPs caused or contributed to the symptoms of neurological damage reported by the study participants.
The government has concluded that the report has not provided any information that would change the policy to allow OP sheep dips to remain on the market.
These are authorised veterinary medicinal products that have been assessed for their quality, safety and efficacy before being granted marketing authorisations.
The government has an ongoing commitment to investigate alternatives to OPs for controlling sheep scab in three projects valued at £1.7 million.