Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pesticide safety victory

A North West resident diagnosed as chemically poisoned has welcomed the government’s decision to alter the way the safety of pesticides is assessed for arable use.
The government move follows a long-running legal challenge by Georgina Downs, from Sussex, who was also left unwell by the use of crop sprays on fields next to her home.
According to the World Bank around 355,000 people worldwide are killed each year by pesticides.
In March 2009, Downs
forced the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to review its risk assessment for people exposed to agricultural pesticides used in spraying crops.
Its working group took until December 2012 to report to ministers, who have only just announced they will accept its recommendations.
The recommendations include assessing the effects of repeated exposures to crop spraying rather than single exposures, and separate assessments for children and adults.
Some crop sprays may now need to be withdrawn or amended.
But the working group exclusively concentrated its attention on crop spraying and did not consider other methods of pesticide application, including hand-held applicators.
Gillian Broughton is convinced it was the use of the latter by farm labourers in June 2009 that left her seriously unwell. She was walking on a footpath in Billinge, near St Helens, alongside a farmer’s field with her son, Paul.
She saw what were possibly rabbit warrens being sprayed with what smelt like cleaning fluid. She collapsed 48 hours hours later and was unable to get out of bed for weeks. Paul was also badly affected with rectal bleeds and was off work for six months.
After failing to get a diagnosis from the NHS, Broughton paid privately for laboratory tests that concluded she had been chemically poisoned. She has been unable to prove a direct link with the use of pesticides but has campaigned against their use in her area, supported by the local branch of the Green Party.
Broughton, who hopes to soon be fit enough to seek part- time work, said: “It is great to see Georgina Downs winning out on the way that the safety of pesticides on arable products is to be assessed. This now needs to be extended to all pesticides, as the very least that needs to be additionally achieved is preventing people becoming as poorly as me in the future.”
Downs said: “By accepting all the working group recommendations the government is finally acknowledging that the risk assessment approach they’ve relied upon has been inadequate – just what I have always argued.”
However, Downs wants a ban on pesticide use in the locality of residents’ homes, schools, playgrounds and public spaces.
“There has never been any UK assessment of the health risks for residents and others exposed over the long term,” she added. “Under European legislation pesticides should never have been approved for spraying in the locality of such areas.

“The existing UK policy has put rural citizens in a guinea pig-style experiment, for which many of us residents have had to suffer the serious, devastating and even fatal consequences.”

No comments:

Post a Comment