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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot