Government urged not to backdown on OP dips
By Donald MacPhail
NEW research linking organophosphates and nerve system damage means the government must think again before reintroducing OP sheep dips, say anti-OP campaigners.
Calls have recently been made for OP dips, withdrawn in December until safer packaging was designed, to be re-introduced. But researchers say they now have evidence that long-term low level exposure to OP dips damages the brain and nervous system.
According to a BBC article, Peter Julu, senior research fellow in neurophysiology at Imperial College, London, believes that chronic OP poisoning leaves a unique "fingerprint".
Dr Julu reported a pattern of damage to nerves that affect the blood supply and nerve damage to the major blood vessels which regulate heartbeat. His experiments found that patients lacked the capacity to increase or decrease their heart rate according to demand.
The report findings showed that they would feel fatigued when not receiving enough blood to meet the demands they were making.
Separate research by Sarah MacKenzie-Ross, a clinical neuropsychologist at University College, London, found evidence of verbal memory impairment.
Problems found by Dr MacKenzie-Ross included reading difficulties, reduced mental flexibility, difficulties in processing information and severe mood swings.
This is at odds with a recent report by government advisers which concluded that there was nothing to prove low level contact with OPs made people ill.
The influential House of Commons agriculture select committee said last week that dips should be sold again as long as the safety of users was not jeopardised.
But pressure group Pesticides Action Network (PAN) – formerly the Pesticides Trust – claims the new research proves any such plans should be scrapped.
Alison Craig of PAN said research was throwing up more doubts all the time and called on government to apply the "precautionary principle.
"This latest research reveals that the remit of the agriculture committee in last weeks decision was limited," said Ms Craig.
Roger Cook, director of the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), which represents animal health companies, said he had not seen the research.
But he added that the precautionary principle was already applied to OPs. It was why they had been withdrawn until containers could be modified, he said. *