Tag Archives: Tom Rigby

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.

brenda-award

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.

 

 

 

Sheep dip sufferers support group update

19 Apr

Following the 2015 post on this website, comes news from Warrington farmer Tom Rigby, co-ordinator of the Sheep Dip Sufferers’ Group, who sent a press release reporting that HSE had released details of their 1992 Sheep Dipping Survey which may be seen on their website – the report here and appendix here.

Readers new to this subject may first wish to read the full history on the group’s website.

HSE identified 700 farmers in 16 different regions of GB (385 in England, 155 in Scotland and 160 in Wales) broadly typical of the whole and 696 surveys were completed. There were 160 occasions described where some form of ill-health occurred after dipping, only three of which had been reported to MAFF/VMD. If this was representative of UK’s 90,400 sheep flocks it suggests over 20,000 cases nationwide.

Northern Farmer 2editorial

HSE’S Epidemiology and Medical Statistics Unit suggested a better way of expressing these findings were as “a crude incident rate of 8.9 self-reported illness episodes per 1000 dippers per annum”. This suggests a total of over 33,000 for MAFF’s compulsory dipping years 1976-92. Mr Rigby comments that trying to calculate incident rate this way almost certainly gives an under-estimate due to what is known as the ‘healthy worker’ effect as it ignores fatalities and those too ill to continue working (similar to trying to estimate road traffic incidents over 10 years just by interviewing current drivers).

Cumulative exposure

sheep dip peter tyrerHis testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkQQl68ltYk

Tom Rigby says: “Whatever the precise figure it does seem by 1992 HSE were aware of the devastating effects dipping was having on the health of sheep farmers. We believe this is the reason MAFF ended compulsory dipping in June that year (something they have always denied) and we request disclosure of correspondence between HSE and MAFF in the weeks prior to that decision being taken”.

The initial results of this HSE study were published as a news release dated 20th July 1993 with the title “HSE SURVEY CONFIRMS POOR WORKING PRACTICES DURING SHEEP DIPPING”. It highlighted “dippers hands or feet were used to immerse sheep on 48 farms” (7% of the total) and the head of HSE’s Livestock National Interest Group, (the sponsors of the report) said “this survey has confirmed our view of where the problems lie”.

Northern Farmer 2 SDS questionsHowever now we have sight of the survey in full there seems to be no correlation between dipping practice and reports of ill-health. 662 farmers, including those using hands and feet, account for proportionately fewer cases than 17 contract dippers who were exclusively using dipping aids.

It said, “Although contract dippers made up only 2.4% of the total they accounted for 10.6% of incidents”. This suggests the greatest single factor seems to be cumulative exposure. Many farmers were not aware of danger of cumulative exposure through inhalation until alerted by this piece in the Farmers Weekly fifteen years later. It is now accepted by HSE but not by DEFRA.

As the contract dippers were also found to be wearing better protective clothing than farmers the main route of exposure might have been inhalation, but face masks were not issued. The shortcoming of protective clothing available at the time is discussed on this audio clip from Countryfile from 1992.

There was no attempt in the survey to try to correlate ill-health with different chemicals used when dipping, apart from the observation that some farmers noticed less problems using non-OP dips. One main conclusion of the report was “Farmers need to be encouraged to substitute a hazardous product (OPs) with a less hazardous product (non OP)”. Sadly however for the last 23 years the ill-health of farmers affected has been ignored; all non-OP have been taken off the market leaving OPs as the only products available for dipping.

We include snapshots from the Northern Farmer’s March edition, which mentioned the work of the group in its front page story, the main feature inside and an editorial (above, centre) calling for an inquiry, listing three questions (above left) to which the group wants answers.

 

At last: some open official recognition of the damage to health done by organophosphates

23 Feb

op sheriff payneAn inquiry into the death of Richard Westgate, a British Airways pilot, by Stanhope Payne, senior coroner for Dorset, officially recognises the damage done by organophosphate (OP) compounds in aircraft cabins. Five years ago government’s failure to admit this danger and change procedures was highlighted in Political Concern: Bad decisions by government – 11c: permitting toxic chemicals in the home, in aeroplanes, in agriculture and in warfare.

john hoyteFormer pilot John Hoyte, Chairman of the Aerotoxic Association, who experienced the devastating effects of Aerotoxic Syndrome, writes ”We believe it is the air travel dimension of OPs that is keeping it from being admitted – millions of people being daily exposed and getting ‘jetlag’.”

Many sheep farmers have suffered serious physical and mental health problems linked to exposure to OP- based sheep dips, which for many years they were legally compelled to use.

Action is long overdue, as may be seen in eight articles on the Chemical Concern website. There is a pressing need for greater awareness and recognition of their condition by government and doctors. See Paul Wright’s case:(link no longer working 15.4.16) but see FWI account of this case and of the missing document mentioned at the end of this article.

op paul wright

In 2015, the Farmers Guardian headlined the sheep dip sufferers’ continuing fight for justice. With OPs used in sheep dip from the 1970s onwards, campaigners claimed there were potentially thousands of farmers affected by OP poisoning. Sheep dipping was required by law and farmers explained there were few or, in some cases, no health and safety guidelines accompanying the chemicals.

It reported the launch of the Sheep Dip Sufferers Support Group aimed at raising awareness of the issue.

brenda with flowers

The meeting was attended by Brenda Sutcliffe, Littleborough, Rochdale, who has campaigned tirelessly for justice regarding OPs and has long claimed the chemical contributed to the death of her husband, Harold.

Most of those involved in the group had to give up farming due to illness as a result of OP poisoning. The scandal, branded ‘one of the biggest medical cover ups in history’ by members of the newly-formed, has been brought to the attention of MPs, including Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham who advised those campaigning for justice regarding organophosphate poisoning to form a single group in order to have a stronger, unified voice.

Warrington dairy farmer Tom Rigby, who is not an OP sufferer but has had a pivotal role in the formation of the group, said: “The group is for awareness. Officially the problem does not exist so we want people to see it does exist. There is a reluctance to diagnose.” Mr Rigby, who was at the initial Sheep Dip Sufferers Support Group event in Gisburn, Lancashire, last week, said awareness and help for people suffering with a disability was standard in today’s society but there was little awareness of people sensitive to OPs.

op video tom rigbyWatch video online here

On the Political Concern website: the incriminating sheep dip poisoning HSE report – officially destroyed – has now been revealed.

Government conceals evidence & denies fatal error, as victims die

22 Nov

For years ministers have denied the dangers of sheep dips despite science-based evidence. In December, farmers who have had serious health problems after exposure to organophosphate (OP) sheep dips, will meet in Westminster in a bid to have the cause of their illnesses recognised.

brenda award

Many visited this Indian website to read about the experience of Lancashire sheep farmer Brenda Sutcliffe, who, with her family, was affected by exposure to OPs and became an award-winning campaigner for all in the same situation. It was hosted by another affected farmer, Margaret Percival. Tom Rigby* is second left.

Some background events:

In 1951, a working group, led by Sir Solly Zuckerman the British government’s leading scientific adviser, produced a report for MAFF on toxic chemicals in agriculture recommending that agricultural organophosphate pesticides should be labelled as ‘deadly poison’. Nevertheless, from1976 to 1992 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made sheep dipping compulsory.

In 1976, OP containers were required to be labelled as potentially hazardous.

In the early ‘80s, a Health and Safety Executive guidance sheet MS17 was produced, saying that OP pesticides could penetrate protective clothing & that repeated exposure had irreversible cumulative neurological effects. It was never circulated to farmers, GPs, vets or hospital doctors. Christopher Booker revealed in the Telegraph and a book on the subject that a confidential report on this study was kept under lock and key.

In the 1980s and 1990s, hundreds of farm workers, including wives and children, reported 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. The government denied that there was a clear link.

In 1992, Nicholas Soames, then a junior minister, announced that sheep dipping would no longer be compulsory.

In 1998, former employee of Lancashire Agricultural College, Robert Shepherd, received £80,000 in an out-of-court settlement over claims of ill-health due to agricultural organophosphate poisoning.

In 2000 and 2001 government funded more research into the effects of organophosphate exposure and poisoning. The results of some of these studies provided support for the poisoning hypothesis.

In May this year about ninety victims, experts and campaigners attended a meeting hosted by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham in London, to discuss the impact on their lives of using government-approved OP dips without adequate health warnings. *Lancashire dairy and vegetable farmer and OP campaigner Tom Rigby said: “This is the biggest human tragedy in farming in our lifetime and yet there’s a whole generation of people growing up who don’t know about it. There were hundreds of thousands of people dipping at a time when the government-approved products they were using weren’t safe”. He is calling for alternatives to OP dips to treat and eradicate sheep scab in a way that was safe for sheep and people working with them.

The December meeting is by invitation only. Anyone affected by OP poisoning should contact Tom Rigby on 01942 671 020 or email  johnsons.farm@tinyworld.co.uk

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.

Investigating the effect of pyridostigmine bromide and organophosphates on Gulf War veterans’ illness

20 Aug

Highlighted here lest we forget that our armed forces could once again be exposed to the same cocktail of chemicals: an account received  from Tom Rigby after reading a post about the work of the late Alf Morris on a sister site:

Covering message 

Alf Morris was a great man who will be sadly missed. I went to the Gulf War Illness symposium he organised at the House of Lords 24th March 2009. He had arranged for US experts to come over to explain their findings that the illness is caused by pyridostigmine bromide and organophosphates.

The Ministry of Defence didn’t attend; they later denied getting the invitation in time despite sending a Written Answer to MP Paul Tyler saying that it had been given too little notice. Two letters had also been sent a month before the meeting to Lady Taylor, Minister for International Defence and Security, and the Veterans Minister, MP Kevan Jones.

In his closing address Lord Craig, former Chief of Defence Staff during the Gulf War, was so indignant I thought he was going to march on the House of Commons

We wish that he had! 

Tom Rigby’s account – headings added

In the House of Lords there is an inner sanctum called the Queen’s Robing room (where successive monarchs have prepared for the state opening of parliament) exquisitely decorated with scenes from Arthurian legend depicting the virtues of Courtesy, Religion, Generosity, Hospitality and Mercy. It must have witnessed many interesting sights through the years, but probably none more remarkable than the visit of three members of the US Research Advisory Committee on Gulf war Veterans’ Illness last week; their journey to be there and mine have very separate beginnings.

For me it was another journey on the quest for the missing shepherds.

Some years ago an Anglican priest told me he was conducting too many funerals for people far too young to die and, as I looked around for those I knew from childhood, many had aged before their time and some suffering from inexplicable ailments.

The commonest explanation offered was they were being affected by the chemicals in the sheep dip, in particular organophosphates (OPs) which are known as nerve toxins They had been developed in Germany in the second world war as pesticides and then refined as chemical weapons (at the end of the war the UK, US and Russia discovered this research and each developed their own weapons and pesticides). However first MAFF and now DEFRA insist that the new generations of OP pesticides are safe provided they are used according to instructions because their toxicity has been reduced.

Our US visitors had been on a very different quest with a far more successful result.

What had been puzzling them is why so many of their veterans of the Gulf War (1990-91) were now in broken health, at least 175,000 of the 697,000 troops deployed were experiencing a range of symptoms with no known cause. It had proved to be one of the most challenging pieces of medical detective work in recent times – not just because of the wide range of symptoms but also because of the long list of possible causes, everything from the oil well fires, fall-out blowing up chemical weapon dumps and the use of depleted uranium had made it one of the most toxic wars in history.

However by a very detailed analysis they were able to ascertain Gulf War Illness was a real condition with two known causes: pills given to protect the troops from effects of nerve agents (known to our troops as NAPs with active ingredient pyridostigmine bromide (PB) a carbamate very closely related in action to OPs) and the insecticides they used to keep pest-borne diseases away many of which were OPs. All are neurotoxic explained in ways that go far beyond my medical understanding but even a layman like myself could see the damage revealed by the sophisticated brain-imaging techniques they had developed (damage that doesn’t show up on a normal MRI scan). They were able to show why problems of that type ought to be treatable (because again in layman’s terms the damage was to the ‘insulation’ of the fibres of the brain rather than the ‘wires’ themselves) and able to explain why some people exposed to similar levels of OPs can remain unaffected (by having high levels of the enzyme PON1 in the blood) which also gives a clue to possible prevention.

Britain trivialised, the United States investigated

There seems to be a different approach to unexplained medical conditions on either side of the Atlantic. Over here we tend to trivialise such things by either denying that they exist or shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done; over there when reports came through that veterans were suffering doctors were ordered to find a cure. The US has already spent about $400m on investigating Gulf War Illness most of which is new research . . .

In contrast the UK with 5,000 reported cases spent less than £25k on a review of the medical research of which about £17k was on hotel and travel costs.

Such is the supremacy of US know-how in this area that we had to invite their academics over here to point out that our institutions are failing to give a duty of care to those brave men and women who volunteer for service.

There is a not very PC joke about Canada being the country that could have had the best of everything – British tradition, American know-how and French culture but sadly ended up with French tradition, British know-how and American culture. Frankly we could have used a bit of Gallic unreasonableness in the room that day; if a French farmers’ leader such as Jose Bové had been there I expect he would have barricaded the doors, staged a sit-in and the issue may have been much nearer resolution before the day was out.

Our armed forces could again be exposed to the same cocktail of chemicals

But that is not the British (or American) way and many may have to suffer for a while longer yet. Unfortunately while their conditions are wrongly diagnosed some are prescribed the sort of medication that can make their condition worse, some in despair turn to suicide and, as far as I am aware, because lessons have not yet been learned, our armed forces in similar circumstances would again be exposed to the same cocktail of chemicals.

However with so many of the great and good gathered there it gave me cause for optimism. For a start there is the Countess of Mar, an OP victim herself but with an indomitable campaigning spirit. Next to her was Lord Lloyd of Berwick who chaired the Independent Inquiry into Gulf War Illness that the government continues to ignore (resplendent in a tie covered in sheep which I presume was a political statement rather than a fashion one). The event had been organized by Lord Morris of Manchester (the first Minister for the Disabled anywhere in the world and a tireless campaigner on their behalf) and closed with a rousing speech by Lord Craig of Radley (Marshal of the RAF and Chief of the Defence Staff in the First Gulf War) who was critical that no-one from the MoD (or for that matter the official opposition) had bothered to attend. Many of our leading academics in the field were also there such as Prof Malcolm Hooper, Dr Sarah Mackenzie-Ross and Dr Stephen Hodges, all in their own way modern-day exponents of Arthurian virtue.

Tom adds: “If you or anyone you know has been affected by the issues raised please do get in touch”.

The report ‘Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans – Scientific Findings and Recommendations’ is available at: http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/GWIandHealthofGWVeterans_RAC-GWVIReport_2008.pdf