OPoversight claim

15 May 1998

OPoversight claim

CAMPAIGNERS have called on ministers to reject a report, produced by the Health and Safety Executive, reviewing existing arrangements for monitoring the effects of pesticide exposure.

In its response to the draft document the Organophosphate Information Network recommends that ministers should reject the HSEs review as "a distorted and unrepresentative report", because OP-based veterinary medicines, including sheep dips, are not included in the review. HSE says the purpose of the review is to "enable the identification of unanticipated adverse effects of new pesticides, or previously unrecognised effects of products, and help inform decisions about appropriate control measures, research needs and resource allocation."

It adds that it has been agreed that veterinary medicines, would not be included in this review, but the report will be sent to MAFFs veterinary medicines directorate (VMD) for information. The VMD will also consider whether any of the improvements recommended might be appropriate to the suspected adverse reaction reporting scheme. Hundreds of human suspected adverse reactions to OP sheep dips have been reported by farmers under this scheme.

In her response Elizabeth Sigmund, of OPIN, says the decision to exclude OP veterinary medicines is illogical and indefensible. By any logical standards OP sheep dips are pesticides employed to deter and kill insect infestation on the skin of farm animals. And latest scientific information makes it "abundantly clear that the occupational use of OPs as veterinary medicines in sheep dipping, warble fly dressings on cattle, has caused, health damage to members of the farming community."

Mrs Sigmund points out that junior environment minister Angela Eagle has said that "as far as OPs are concerned, the distinction between pesticides and veterinary medicines can seem rather legalistic." And Dr Stuart Smith, head of the HSEs healthy policy directorate has described the designation of OP sheep dips as veterinary medicines as "a legal quibble."

Mrs Sigmund warns that it, therefore, seems that the "arbitrary exclusion (of OP sheep dips) is unjustified and can only lead to even greater distrust of the advisory bodies appointed to monitor such serious and hazardous chemicals."

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