Campaigners against the use of organophosphorous dips are “up in arms” about a document that has appeared on the Health and Safety Executive website which, they say, acknowledges for the first time that these substances are hazardous by inhalation.
Retired Lancashire farmer Brenda Sutcliffe, who has campaigned relentlessly for 15 years for a ban on OP dips, says she finds it “totally unbelievable” that a document containing such specific health warnings has not been issued to every sheep farmer in the UK.
“It was a friend of mine in the building industry who spotted the document on the HSE website. It was only posted on there last month and includes the first admission by the HSE that OP dips are hazardous by inhalation.
“The HSE has never openly admitted this before, despite all our calls for them to do so, and yet here it is buried away in a document that has not been issued to farmers. And what makes this even more unbelievable is the fact that we are in the midst of the sheep dipping season,” says Mrs Sutcliffe of Littleborough, Lancashire.
The 12-page document entitled Sheep dipping – advice for farmers and others involved in dipping sheep states that hazardous substances can enter the body in three ways: Through the skin, by swallowing and by breathing in the vapour.
Mrs Sutcliffe, whose family farmed sheep and who has suffered severe health problems, says it is impossible to use these compounds without breathing it in. “Inhaling the dip vapour has always been a major risk and here we finally see the HSE making an open admission to sheep producers about the danger of OP dips.”
Fellow Lancashire farmer Margaret Percival from Wigan – now semi-retired from farming after four years of serious health problems – asks why it has taken the HSE 30 years to make the admission in its new document on sheep dipping.
“Back in the 1970s we were told we only needed to wear protective clothing if we were topping up the dip or when mixing the dip – not when we were actually dipping the sheep. And yet suddenly, buried away on the internet, is an open admission that OP dips are hazardous if inhaled. Does the HSE expect farmers to dip sheep without breathing?”