Tag Archives: Peter Evans

Farewell Brenda Sutcliffe

23 Jan

We remember with affection and admiration, Brenda Sutcliffe, the gallant award-winning campaigner who, with her family, was seriously harmed by an OP pesticide. She died on January 18th.


In the picture above, we also recognise campaigners Tom Rigby (2nd left) and Peter Evans (far right – though not politically) in this picture.

brenda We celebrate Brenda’s vigorous campaigning and know that she would have been most interested in the next article – news of yet another organophosphate concern.

By coincidence a 2013 account of her work was top post this week. On the days her article was visited, the readers came from these countries on the left.

Read more about her work and that of other activists on the Sheep Dip Sufferers website set up by Tom.





A disturbing lack of official information in the public domain about organophosphates

13 Aug

The subject of hyperactive children, once more in the headlines, recalls the research finding which supports the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, is a factor and warrants further research.

Toxicology journal coverAn email message from Peter Evans, Chairman of the OP Action Group North West, included a reflection on the recent research into neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides, led by Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross, a consultant clinical neuropsychologist & honorary senior lecturer at University College London – see the UCL post. Its findings were published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology and the abstract said:

“The majority of well designed studies found a significant association between low-level exposure to OPs and impaired neurobehavioral function which is consistent, small to moderate in magnitude and concerned primarily with cognitive functions such as psychomotor speed, executive function, visuospatial ability, working and visual memory”.

He said that farmer Margaret Percival recently rang the Health and Safety executive in Liverpool for the latest advice regarding organophosphate sheep dips.

The HSE assists employees to prosecute an employer in the event of ill-effects arising from the use of OPs but is unable to provide employers with any advice concerning the “safe” use of OPs. She was referred to the Veterinary MD in Northern Ireland but initially no one there could assist. The following day she was promised that an effort would be made to acquire leaflets that provide recommendations to farmers using OP sheep dips.

The questions that arise are these:

  • What is being done in other countries?
  • Is there an effective alternative to OP sheep dip being used abroad?
  • What action is being taken abroad to tackle/control sheep scab (if any)?

Other groups affected include:

  • Gulf War Veterans, who were exposed to pesticides on a daily basis during their tour of duty to protect them from pests such as sand flies, mosquitoes and fleas which carry infectious diseases
  • airline pilots and cabin crew, who can be exposed to organophosphates in engine oil.

A chilling reminder from Peter Evans implies that very few people will be unaffected. He points out the perils accompanying the current use of OPs in the growing, transport and storage of food:

  • in the holds of ships bringing produce from abroad,
  • as an insecticide during the growing process,
  • in warehouses,
  • and supermarkets where the air conditioning is employed to distribute OPs around the store every 3 weeks to kill insects and other pests.

Time for the precautionary principle to come into play – better late than never.


Brenda Sutcliffe: organophosphate sheep dips

10 Jun

News of the award-winning work of Brenda Sutcliffe of Sheep Bank Farm, Littleborough in Lancashire was featured on an Indian website and continues to be widely read in that country.

She has written at length about the damage done to farmers by toxic organophosphate sheep dips. It has now been lodged as a reference document with the British Library. Campaigner Peter Evans (far right) has now placed Part 4 online and it can be sent as an email attachment. CHS award brendaBrenda’s friend and fellow-campaigner, Margaret Percival, hosted the award presentation by Tom Rigby (2nd left) at Leylands Farm on the Wigan/Salford border. 

In 1976 the British government imposed a legal requirement on sheep farmers to dip their flocks with this pesticide as a precaution against sheep scab and that regulation was not lifted until 1992.

Organophosphates (OPs) are synthetic chemical compounds used in thousands of licensed pesticides.  Brenda’s whole family has been affected by OP sheep dip and for years she  has campaigned tirelessly, on behalf of many others affected, despite seriously impaired health. An article with a good account from 1992-2004 is Are our shepherds being poisoned?

sheep bank farm no caption

General information was given in the House of Lords [2009] by another victim, the Countess of Mar, and Lord Greaves, who was taken to meet Brenda at her farm on the Saddleworth Moors – the white building faintly circled on the picture above. 

The potential dangers and precautions needed were not unknown; in the 1940s it was becoming apparent that workers were suffering serious adverse health effects from OP pesticides. An inquiry was instigated and in 1951 Lord Zuckerman, a senior government advisor, issued a report in which the deadly nature of the poisons was recognised. He warned that hospitals should be notified before any OP insecticides were used in the locality and that the words  DEADLY POISON should be printed on all product labels and cans containing them. There is no evidence that his recommendations were implemented and claims were made that the more modern pesticides were much safer.

In 1980: the HSE guidance sheet, known as MS17, was produced but never circulated to farmers, doctors, vets, or the Ministry of Defence & during the next ten years hundreds of farm workers began to report symptoms including fatigue, memory loss, weakness, joint and muscle pain and depression, which they put down to low-level exposure to organophosphates over long periods of time.

Sceptics are referred to the mainstream medical finding:

The Lancet : Volume 354, Number 9173, 10 July 1999

10 Jul 1999   Prolonged, low-dose exposure to organophosphorus sheep dips is linked with chronic ill-health—the most risky occupational activity seems to be handling of concentrated pesticide. These are the main findings of a report, Risks accumulate with cumulative sheep-dip exposure, by Kelly Morris, published by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM; Edinburgh).  

Due to the efforts of affected people like Brenda the use of OPs is no longer compulsory, but it is still allowed to pose a danger to pilots and passengers on long-haul flights and as an ingredient in other products. 

We salute all such ‘whistleblowers’, recognising that the health of Indian farmers and farm workers has also been seriously damaged by such products.