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January 11 - January 14, 1999

Report Highlights Problems With Organophosphates

Originally posted in IGC member conference:
Date: January 11, 1999
Posted by:

/* Written 1:48 PM Jan 11, 1999 by in */
/* ---------- "PANUPS: UK Report on OPs" ---------- */
Pesticide Action Network
North America
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January 11, 1999

UK Report Highlights Problems with OPs

Illness from chronic organophosphate (OP) exposure is
genuine and sometimes very serious according to a report
recently released in the United Kingdom.

The report,* written by a joint working party of the
Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of
, heard evidence from sheep-dip exposure
victims and concluded that symptoms they experience
are unquestionably real.

Symptoms range from excessive tiredness, headaches,
limb pains, disturbed sleep, poor concentration and mood
changes to thoughts of suicide.

Witnesses at the hearings also stated that they had not been
properly looked after by hospitals and doctors. The report
calls for doctors to take the problem seriously and treat
sufferers sympathetically.

Concerns regarding the safety of organophosphate sheep
dips have risen in the UK over the past few years as more
evidence of health impacts has come to light. For example,
a 1995 epidemiological study on farmers by the UK Institute
of Occupational Medicine showed that chronic exposure
to organophosphate-based sheep dip pesticides appeared
to be associated with subtle changes in the nervous system.

Over 100,000 sheep farmers in the UK use an estimated 200
million liters of sheep dip each year. Approximately 50% of
the dips sold have active ingredients that are organophosphate
insecticides such as diazinon, chlorfenvinphos and propetamphos.

Some farmers stated that even after following recommended
precautions such as wearing protective clothing, they often
became ill after dipping.

The UK Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer
has responded positively to the report, with an initiative
to involve the Royal College of General Practitioners in
implementing the report's recommendations. The report's
authors propose that general practitioners working with the
National Poisons Information Service remain the primary
source of treatment for those affected.

The OP Information Network (OPIN), a UK non-governmental
organization in touch with almost 700 sufferers, stated that
they are unhappy with the report because it did not look at
how the symptoms are caused, nor does it address the problem
that many general practitioners do not know the symptoms
of chronic OP poisoning. OPIN is also concerned that the
working party did not look at reported cases of problems
among children of farming families.

In a report released in April 1998,** the Agriculture Committee
of the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue stated that
there is a connection between exposure victims' illness and OP
compounds and that there should be a moratorium on their use
pending an immediate governmental review.

The report criticized the UK government for dragging its feet
over the various problems posed by the use of OPs and concluded
that the information about OP sheep-dips given to farmers is

Organic sheep farmers have developed husbandry strategies
to minimize or do without the use of chemicals to control sheep
scab and other problems. In addition to chemical-free
management practices, organic sheep farmers in the UK are
permitted to use limited amounts of the synthetic pyrethroid
flumethrin to control sheep scab. Synthetic pyrethroids are
believed to be less toxic; however, these chemicals have been
implicated in damage to wildlife and the environment, and on
some farms sheep-scab mite has become resistant.

* "Organophosphate Sheep Dip: Clinical Aspects of Long-term
Low-dose Exposure,"
Report of a joint working party of the
Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of
Psychiatrists, November 1998/CR67.

** "Organophosphate Insecticides -- Their Use by the Farming
a report prepared by Standing Committee D
(Agriculture and Fisheries Issues) of the Northern Ireland
Forum for Political Dialogue, 1998.

Sources: The Pesticides News, December 1998, June 1997 and
June 1995; "Doctors Warn on Sheep Dip," Alex Kirby, BBC,
November 11, 1998.

Contact: The Pesticides Trust
Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra
Road, London SW2 1BZ UK
Phone (44-171) 274 8895
Fax (44- 171) 274 9084

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94102
Phone (415) 981-1771
Fax (415) 981-1991
Web Site:

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