Listen to sheep farmers

TWO important questions remain unanswered on the question of toxic sheep dips ("Reports back farmers' toxic sheep dip claims", 30 April). First, why has it taken so long to make available the research reports on sheep dips completed several months ago? Academic researchers have been told that the delay is due to the need to get the research peer-reviewed. Surely the priority for government is to make results available as soon as possible to those who may be affected by use, such as GPs, poisons units and employer and trade union organisations. If a drug had evidence of adverse effects, notification would be sent out rapidly. Sheep dips should be treated in the same way.

Second, why have the accounts of people possibly adversely affected by sheep dips apparently been dismissed by those responsible for the monitoring of human exposure to pesticides? Not all anecdotal accounts of suspected poisoning may prove correct but procedures should be put in place to ensure that Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods, and Health and Safety Executive committees dealing with sheep dips do consider the experiences of people like the Laytons, whose account is reported in your paper.

These government committees and groups should also automatically contain community and workplace representatives, a step which would ensure greater openness and public confidence in the MAFF and HSE committees dealing with pesticides than has hitherto been the case.

Dr Andrew Watterson

De Montfort University