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Sheep farmer Meirion Thomas
"I was shaking all the time, losing weight and feeling very, very weak"
 real 28k

Solicitor Liz Charles
"We grow more confident as we get more and more evidence"
 real 28k

Saturday, 27 November, 1999, 15:40 GMT
Farmers' anger at sheep dip report
Farmer dipping sheep Farmers are forced by law to dip their sheep

A new Government report saying there is no evidence that long term exposure to sheep dip causes health problems has angered farmers in Wales.

Farmers are forced by law to dip their sheep to protect them from contagious diseases and for the past 10 years thousands have been using organophosphates.

Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther Christine Gwyther has promised to study the report
But while they are kind to the environment there are growing concerns about the affect they have on farmers' health.

The Government's Committee on Toxicity has concluded there is not enough evidence to prove organophosphate (OP) sheep dip has caused serious medical problems to people exposed to it at low levels.

However, the experts acknowledge an urgent need for more research into the impact of the chemicals.

They also accept that OPs can cause brain damage at high levels, and that controls on their use may be advisable.

Farmers exposed to the chemicals claim OPs cause chronic fatigue, memory loss and aching limbs.

They have been campaigning for years to have the illness recognised, and for compensation for those whose health they say has been damaged.

'Balance of evidence'

A report by two psychiatrists published this summer found that farmers were 10,000 times more likely to suffer from mental disorders if exposed to OPs.

The claims have been studied by the Committee of Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT). Its report was published on Friday.

The committee concludes that the "balance of evidence" does not support the theory that prolonged or repeated low-level exposure to OPs can cause nerve damage or significant neuropsychological effects.

But Farmers' Union of Wales president Bob Parry says anecdotal evidence cannot be ignored.

Disappointed by report

"I know of examples of farmers who have been poorly for a number of years and there is no doubt it was OP dip," he said.

Solicitor Liz Charles works for Gabb and Co, in Hay-on-Wye, who represent farmers who claim their health has been damaged by the OP's in sheep dips.

She said her clients are disappointed by the report's findings but they would continue their battle.

Assembly health secretary Christine Gwyther has promised to study the report before deciding whether further research is needed.
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See also:
26 Nov 99 |  Health
Jury out on sheep dip
26 Nov 99 |  Health
Sheep dip: The reaction
01 Jul 99 |  Health
Report raises sheep dip health fears
11 Nov 98 |  Sci/Tech
Doctors warn on sheep dip

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