Sheep dip may have caused nerve damage

NEARLY A fifth of Britain's sheep farmers may have suffered nerve damage from using highly toxic organophosphorous (OP) sheep dips, a report sponsored by the Government suggested yesterday.

Studies of a random sample of more than 600 farmers, who had done an average of 54 days of sheep dipping, found that 19 per cent showed nerve damage symptoms, says the report from the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh.

The document provides the first clear evidence that long-term low-level exposure to the chemicals, used for combating problems such as blowfly infestation and sheep scab, can damage the nervous system. High dosages have long been known to be dangerous. Exposure from concentrated dip was most likely to cause nerve damage, but splashes from the diluted product were also a health threat.

The results were disclosed in a written parliamentary answer by Jeff Rooker, the Farming and Food Safety minister, who said the study would be "urgently" considered in committee to see whether new advice or measures were necessary for safe handling of OP sheep dip. Mr Rooker said he had written to dip manufacturers seeking a meeting "within the week" to discuss what action they proposed to take.

But last night the principal campaigner against the chemicals, Elizabeth Sigmund, who runs the OP Information Network, described the failure to introduce an immediate ban on the use of OP pesticides as "deeply irresponsible".

She said: "Urgent action is now necessary. To wait and hide behind the chemical companies and yet another committee is not only cowardly but also deeply irresponsible. This is prevarication of the most blatant kind and on a serious issue of ... health concerning all British sheep farmers."

The OP Information Network says it has on its database 740 sheep dippers who claim to have suffered ill-effects from thedips. OPs are related to nerve gases used in chemical warfare and their neurological effects are said to be similar to those allegedly suffered by soldiers claiming they have Gulf War syndrome.

From the 1970s, the government insisted on the use of OPs to dip flocks, but since 1992 their use has been optional. Farmers say the chemicals have caused them to suffer chronic fatigue, memory loss and aching limbs. Some say they are suicidal.

"There are around 70,000 sheep farmers in the UK and we are looking at one in five suffering the effects of OPs," said Peter Beaumont, development director of the Pesticides Trust. "That's a lot of people who have got problems with their nervous system. These are highly dangerous chemicals."

The Government has told farmers they must use up, within the next two years, supplies of the main organophosphate, Diazionon, which is used on crops. "We want to see a ban on the use of all OPs and the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme. Clearly ... a lot of people deserve compensation," Mr Beaumont said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own