Letter: Children facing pesticide threat

Sir: Having read the article by Edward Williams ("Did cockroach spray kill little Claire?", 5 September) on the case of Claire Stanton who died, aged four, apparently having suffered major birth defects after her mother was exposed to a cocktail of pesticides at work, we write in support of the growing number of children affected by personal or parental exposure to such substances.

We are in contact with 500 people suffering apparent organophosphate (OP) poisoning, of which nine are under 18. The youngest is 11 months old, and the parents have had no diagnosis of her condition as yet, although her father has been diagnosed as suffering neurological damage from his exposure to OP sheep dip.

All these children, and their parents, are left in a state of confusion and anxiety, as the medical profession has not been given adequate information on the toxicological risks associated with exposure to OPs, synthetic pyrethroids and carbamates. A Swedish manual on OPs published in 1975 states clearly that experimental laboratory work shows mutagenic and teratogenic damage caused by exposure to OPs.

The use of pesticides for treatment of head-lice in children, and on fruit, grain and vegetables, combined with escape of OPs into drinking- water sources, represents a constant source of low-level contamination. This subject must be tackled now, before more children are harmed.

The Organophosphate Information Network is calling for the formation of an independent committee to review the Government's handling of the issue.

ELIZABETH SIGMUND

OP Information Network

Callington, Cornwall

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