Submission to the Working Group on Organophosphates 18th July 1998
Secretary for the Group
Room 652C, Skipton House.
Following correspondence with various Government Departments I received a letter from the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group at the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food suggesting that I might like to submit evidence of long term OP damage to your Group.
You will see that this letter includes a copy of my review of the recently published Official Group on OPs Report to Ministers which was produced at the request of a Minister via a third party. You may find my comments useful in your work but first I will give you a brief background which will explain my interest and concerns in respect to the use of OP pesticides in general and their presence in food in particular.
During the early years of my work my fellow workers and I were instructed to use a host of chemicals often with no protective clothing. One employer even instructed us to mix a powdered potato fungicide in a bucket using our hands in the 1970s. Everyone we asked informed us that the chemicals had been tested as safe before marketing and that if they were not safe they would not be sold.
At this time my daughter was born. She suffered with a cleft palate. There appears to be no family reason for this deformity. Her three children have not inherited the trait.
When the OP warblecides were introduced we asked the Veterinary Surgeon who was present at the time of treatment what the symptoms of poisoning might be but he only made a joke of the question.
Our cowman poured the OP over the backs of the cows wearing the gloves provided but we noticed that later, when the cows were milked or otherwise handled, our hands would come in contact with the oily chemical on their skin. The cowman had previously worked with crop sprays. He developed severe sinus problems which required an operation. His eyesight deteriorated and his glasses did not appear to help in certain situations. He developed lymph cancer and died two years later.
His youngest son developed testicular cancer but has so far been lucky enough to survive. The children of his second son also have suffered with health problems requiring hospitalisation.
The cows themselves developed fertility problems which expert advice suggested was due to an energy imbalance. This problem occurred on two separate occasions and both were linked to OP use. On both occasions copper supplements were required to correct the situation and additionally in the later period the use of magnesium supplements almost throughout the year was required to avoid nervous symptoms.
The herd did not have a case of BSE until some months after they were sold to a mainland farm in 1991.
For the previous six years they had been exposed to Actellic Dust used to control mites in the grain store.
Every summer the store was swept clean. The label instructions indicating a rapid decline in insecticidal activity in stored grain were untrue. Grain swept from the floor would, in hindsight, have contained many times the recommended incorporation levels and had been fed to the cows, probably at toxic levels.
During my time on the farm I had used probably hundreds of different chemicals. Apart from the obvious dangers from paraquat use I had identified adverse health reactions to Chlorpyrifos, Lindane and Actellic pesticides. These were usually headaches, breathing difficulties and associated stomach upset. As the years progressed I noticed vision problems and a "numbness" in my toes. Seams in socks and other garments at pressure points began to cause sores. My nose would be forever streaming and the slightest breeze would fill my eyes with tears. My heart would race when moving cattle cake across the yard in the daily operation which had never caused difficulty before. On one occasion I was unable to recall where I was, who was with me, or even how I had managed to get there. Fortunately the feeling did not last long. Sunglasses, scorned before, were always worn in the summer to prevent eyestrain.
Realising that the exposures might be responsible, and when I became responsible for the day to day management, I was able to purchase protective clothing including a carbon filter mask for use when handling those chemicals which I knew caused harm to my health.
The Health & Safety Executive, who had never made much fuss about protective clothing in all the years I had worked on farms, suddenly declared the mask unsafe even though it was sold for chemical use.
A new purchase made little difference to the effects and the HSE protective clothing and spray store regulations became ever stronger. Many of us wondered why we had been told the chemicals were safe.
Now those we had used for years were being withdrawn and after years of unprotected use we now had to dress up like spacemen in order to use chemicals which we are, even today, still being told are safe.
A neighbour bought the farm and I worked under a foreman for whom safety was an unknown word.
Sadly and unknown to me they had stored diluted Actellic in an old sprayer for some 6 months. I was not warned of the danger and was exposed directly to the chemical. Within 9 days of the spill and after working in a nearby drain I suffered with symptoms of what appeared to be influenza with severe headaches, sweating, loss of appetite, which developed to very severe breathing problems and the doctor was called. He suggested I would be back at work in 5 days. That was 6 years and 6 months ago.
Concerned for my family, my housing prospects, and the work with the new owner of the farm I was desperate to get back to work. However the drugs given by the doctors in their attempts to resolve the breathing, heart and energy difficulties only seemed to make matters worse. By the time I had recovered from the initial trauma I had forgotten the incident with the spray. The opportunity for early tests was lost.
Now a new problem evolved. The need for diplomacy. Was the spray capable of causing long-term health effects? How could I find out without giving the GP the impression that I doubted his skills and without my employer sacking me for involving the HSE? I chose to go with the flow and hope to recover.
Tests showed no lung disease but restricted volume. Exercise tests proved that there was a problem with oxygen utilisation which "should resolve itself in time." The reason for heart arrhythmia was never found.
Eventually I was referred to Guy’s Hospital National Poison’s Unit where they said my symptoms were consistent with OP poisoning. The urgent tests suggested were not performed for another 9 months and even then the specific tests available for the chemical were not used. Problems were confirmed in the area of cognitive function and within the autonomic nervous system. Their exercise test resulted in serious and prolonged whole body tremor but the results and description of the tests are for some reason unavailable.
Delays within the heart electrical system were found and only after another 7 months were the visual problems, which I had described over a year before, confirmed. The causes given were all neurological and were described as damage to the Optic Nerve, Brain and Autonomic nervous system.
It appears that external pressure was put on the NPU for there is considerable doubt over their actions.
Blood Tests claiming to show viral cause have been shown to be questionable in date, content and as a reason for diagnosis. Opinion has been allowed to over-rule fact. So confused are they that the director has written views of opposite opinion about my case to two different people on the same day.
In one he withdraws the opinion formed at all previous examinations that the symptoms are consistent with poisoning and in the other he confirms that opinion. It is clear that the same doctor has both confirmed and denied the diagnosis of poisoning on several occasions since but it is also a fact that, as he wrote, "Medical science has so far failed to find an alternative diagnosis." 1 I wonder why he needs one?
The diagnosis of poisoning has since been confirmed by two other specialists but even now the case is not officially recognised and the PIAP2 obstinately refuse to address the issues raised, probably as the result of pressure from the HSE. The HSE did not instigate an investigation despite the fact that all the major regulations pertaining to the use, storage and disposal had been breached some 4 months before I worked on the farm concerned. The Ombudsman3 cleared them of failing to investigate only because there is a specific exemption for Agriculture which makes such investigations only discretionary.
Even the Department of Social Security has had to break its own rules4 to hide the case and has ignored medical evidence in favour of untrained opinion.
However it is becoming clearer as time goes by that more and more of my symptoms can be explained by the effects of long-term and acute exposures to OPs. Were this not the case inconsistencies would grow more obvious. But even the David Ray document on Organophosphorus esters from the MRC supports the facts that I presented in my case long before I was aware of the known effects of OPs.
Those symptoms were presented in written form to all the main examining doctors5.
Interestingly the Ray document uses the hospitalised acute high dose exposure group6 to indicate a lack of long-term effects. It is probable if not inevitable that every hospitalised case represents severe poisoning and that every such case would have been treated with the antidote and other beneficial treatments which in themselves may have prevented any delayed effects. Long term sub-acute repeated low dose exposures would not be treated in this way and over time many subsequent and possibly more important enzyme systems may be adversely affected. These in turn may induce illnesses involving the hormone system.
Possible Consequences of OP intakes
I am now aware that OPs mimic7 or even cause8 a form of asthma and that the usual treatments are themselves contraindicated in cases of OP poisoning7,9. It is clear that the energy problems in our cows may mirror the oxygen and energy problems shown in my own body. OPs act on the ATP / ADP energy transfer process which depends on both Oxygen and Phosphorus10. The damage to the nervous systems shown can also be explained11,12 by OP corruption of vital enzymes as can the damage to the action of the brain and visual system12, particularly the image retention problem which shows delayed response.
The reported cognitive changes are described in other cases13 as are the changes in pin-prick sensation described by more than one DSS examiner in regard to my own case14.
It is clear that once the OP enters the system and acts at the phosphorus bonding sites an imbalance in the calcium / phosphorus system can be triggered. This imbalance is known to be a factor in the release of minerals from the bone15. An interesting study in Nottingham of 2600 people, reported in 199416, found low magnesium levels in asthmatics and others with breathing difficulties irrespective of smoking habits. Fortunately I have never been a smoker but magnesium plays an important part in the nervous, energy and enzyme systems. Black’s veterinary dictionary warns that magnesium supplements may accentuate any phosphorus deficiency, which indicates that the chemical can neutralise the action of phosphorus. Underwood CBE stated in his book The Mineral Nutrition of Livestock17 that an excess of either phosphorus or calcium may interfere with the availability of other minerals such as magnesium, zinc and manganese which indicates that excess phosphorus may restrict magnesium availability. Anorexia is a known result of repeated OP ingestion9. On the 4th October 1996 by Dr Hilary Jones (GMTV) that women who become violent with PMT may also suffer from a shortage of magnesium. ME and Cot Death victims are also said to be deficient. OP utilisation in place of dietary phosphorus may even effect the reproductive system and it is noticeable that experiments have shown sperm damage18 and a serious effect on bird reproduction18. Since it is known that OPs can affect both DNA and RNA10 and that in some experiments foetal abnormalities have occurred18 it is likely that the unborn child is at greater risk.
It was interesting to see a discussion on the 8th March 1995 (This Morning ITV) in which it was stated that Clumsy Child Syndrome is the result of improperly formed nervous systems within the womb in the first 3 months of pregnancy. It is found at higher levels in agricultural areas and is most severe in the children of farm workers. It was suggested that pesticides were involved.
The Sunday Telegraph reported fears that Autism may be the result of chemical damage to children in the womb on the 26th May 1996. On the 25th October Meridian TV News suggested that Autistic children were usually normal until 3 years of age but then lost understanding of words. They estimated that 115,000 children were affected in Britain with a four times greater incidence in boys than girls.
Owen Sachs in the Mind Traveller, BBC2, 21st November 1996 reported that Autism involves the loss of neurons in the early development of the cerebellum in the brain in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
The Daily Mail 6th September 1996 reported that "Charge Syndrome" had a probable pre-birth pesticide related cause and resulted in several abnormalities including heart disease.
Williams Syndrome was reported on 5th December 1996. Both parents are usually perfectly normal but a "deletion" on Chromosome 7 causes depletion of the Elastin Gene which effects the skin, heart, facial tissues and blood vessels and gives heightened senses of humour, sound, sensitivity and musical ability.
The "Big Story" broadcast on 3rd October 1996 stated that 1% of children suffered from Crohns disease of the gut. Lesions in the gut were produced in experiments with animals fed OPs18. Reports suggest a measles vaccine link with the booster injection. Perhaps this indicates an OP induced immune system failure21 given that the residues of pirimiphos methyl in grain will be in the gut. The immune system is known to be damaged by OPs allowing formerly overcome, latent, viruses to reactivate. In my own case it is virtually certain that exposure to OPs, including glyphosate (Roundup) will induce cold sores in days.
November 1996 saw reports on a lady living in a tent in Dorset because she had become allergic to all chemicals following her exposure to OP pesticides some years previously. It is interesting that the main causes of food allergy are those with admitted high levels of OP residues and include wheat, milk, eggs beer21 and peanuts18. The action of the solvents used is often forgotten but has been recognised by Government for many years and they have their own recognised Industrial diseases19. They are known to cause leukaemia and to cause sensitivity and respiratory failure19. Grain workers who are exposed to OPs and their solvents and other workers exposed to solvents are known to suffer more lymph cancers20.
Also in 1996 researchers were reported on the Independent television news on the 4th June that Dyslexia can be overcome by wearing coloured glasses, which suggests that an interference of brain signals occurs.
Dr John Collinge, Imperial College School of Medicine, reported on "Panorama" on the 10th November 1997 that "The effects of CJD are pretty devastating. Essentially it’s killing large numbers of brain cells. In the early stages it’s destroying the synapses, the areas where nerve cells communicate with one another, but in the later stages the cells themselves completely die in very large numbers"
He has described a process beginning with the known action of OP toxicity at the nerve synapses.
It is difficult to understand why there is any remaining doubt about the long-term health effects of OPs.
Phosphorus is one of the most vital elements in the body and is involved at all levels.
It is known that the toxic action of OP agents takes place at the phosphorus atom and this in itself explains why there is such a varied symptom range in OP victims. Evidence for this is found in the literature which states that symptoms may vary even with the same chemical depending on the exposure site. There is a predominance of different enzyme types in the gut, respiratory tract, eye and skin.
Some routes have more direct action to the brain and others to the heart, nerves or digestive tract.
It is often stated13 that pre-morbid intelligence is difficult to quantify but even post-exposure intelligence measuring is clouded by pre-conceived ideas and the confusing picture shown by victims. In my own case, as I have stated in letters to officials I was once able to multiply 5 figure sums or more using mental arithmetic alone but now have difficulty adding the price of two Christmas cards. I was able to draw recognisable pictures of my friends but there have been several distressing occasions when I have been unable to recognise friends I have known for years, even by asking subtle questions to obtain hints of identity. As a child of 8 years old I was helping my father print the local Parish Magazine by setting individual pieces of type. Spelling mistakes would result in perhaps a whole page of fine type needing resetting. I very quickly learned to spell. Now I have found myself reaching for the dictionary to find how to spell words such as "see" and even when I write my own name the letters come out in the wrong order.
Checking the spelling in a dictionary is a slow job. First to find the word and then to get it down properly but despite possibly using the same word repeatedly each time the problem is the same.
Fortunately our son is in the process of moving house and has allowed me temporary use of his computer with a spell-checking facility, which only serves to show me how bad things have become.
There seems to be more than one mechanism at work in the brain for as the reader must be aware I am able to produce reasonable information in print but have great difficulty with the spoken word especially when accuracy is vital. I believe this is both a time and an access problem. Producing this document has taken several days with many trips to my reference books to check ideas my mind may have glimpsed. Sometimes my memory may be out by several years and it is not possible to rely on it in conversation. Annoyingly if I am able to find the route to the information I can see that much of the memory is retained.
Further difficulty is caused in conversation by the necessity to breath and respond to others in a timely way. In short exchanges there is no real problem but care must be taken or the voice becomes strained, the brain finds words difficult to find and the diaphragm goes into spasm due to the excess work needed to control the voice. Those who have never experienced the problem often suppose it is a symptom of stress induced hyperventilation but they could not be more wrong.
Stress is put forward as a reason for the symptoms endured by exposed victims. It is an overused word.
A nerve gas attack may well cause stress. Fear of attack. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death.
Using pesticides which most people believed were safe was quite a relaxing experience. Sat in a tractor out in the sun and the only stress is likely to be if you will be finished in time for lunch.
Once poisoned and knowing that any slight exposure will trigger the same health problems as before the sufferer is more likely to be angry to have been re-exposed than stressed. I can say without any doubt whatsoever that the most stress caused to me as an individual has not been caused by the pesticides but by those who seek to deny that the pesticides are unsafe and have used unethical means to hide the truth.
Never before have those who are studying the effects of pesticides had so much information to hand.
Never before have so many been willing to help those in authority understand.
Now is the chance to be truly open and honest to the people of Britain.
Now is the time to give future generations the support and the protection they both need and deserve.
Organophosphates were designed to kill. They should never, ever, have been allowed as food additives.
Newcombe. Lancet Vol. 339 29 February 1992.
Submission to the Working Group on Organophosphates
Supplement 28th July 1998
Grateful thanks for acknowledging receipt of my submission to the Working Group.
It has come to my attention that, despite considerable efforts by sufferers such as myself, new victims, even of acute poisoning, are finding that obtaining proper tests is still something of an ordeal.
After all the publicity surrounding the dangers of OPs and other chemicals there is no excuse for the medical profession or the Health & Safety Executive for failing to provide this basic service.
I know many cases where the system has failed individuals of all ages across the country. It is also a fact that many individuals known personally to me have avoided further damage to their health by simply refusing to work with the chemicals they have known cause damage to their health. Many have found alternative employment and in so doing have probably both saved their health and inadvertently helped to make any statistical measurements of damage caused by chemicals in the work place grossly inaccurate.
I have raised several areas of concern with various government departments who have been unable to give satisfactory answers.
The testing of chemicals in dilution has normally been done using pure water and parent chemical which cannot possibly indicate the real life situations found on farms and gardens. The chemical reactions created in water treated with fluoride and chlorine and in the presence of the solvents, adjuvants and emulsifiers in commercial formulations seem to be merely a matter of guesswork. They may also vary from one water treatment area to another and may also be affected by the pH status in the area.
At this point I should point out that even in 1977 gardening magazines recommended disposal of pesticides down domestic drains. I raised this with my MP in 1992 and was informed that this presented no risk. How that could be true, when the water is recycled from rivers many times, is not known.
I also raised the problem of unwanted domestic pesticides disposed to landfill sites with similar results.
Perhaps it is less controversial to simply pass the blame for the pesticides found in water to farmers despite the controls on agricultural use and the obvious dangers presented by domestic pesticide formulations which, despite the manufacturers claims, have been proven to be equally persistent.
In fact the action of the solvent both in solution and in man seems to have been largely ignored in the risk analysis and yet that action may well alter the entire effect within the human body (and the environment).
Much is made of the protection afforded by the blood brain barrier and yet it is a known fact that benzenes and psychoactive drugs can freely permeate the barrier via the fatty glial cell (astrocyte) sheath.
In fact it appears that the action of the brain depends on the ability of such lipid-soluble solutes and the chemicals to which they are related to cross the barrier. Since many, if not all OPs, are lipophilic it follows that they too are able to freely cross the blood-brain barrier.
In examining the known actions of benzene it becomes apparent that this chemical has known narcotic and irritant properties. It has also been known for many decades that it becomes stored in the bone marrow for many months and is in actual fact a bone marrow depressant and has an anaesthetic action.
The solvent may well explain the reported intolerance to alcohol found in some pesticide poisonings as this is a recognised effect found in poisoning by toluene which itself may contain a benzene contaminant.
The benzene ring is the starting point for a wide range of essential chemicals.
Not least of these is cholesterol which contains three such rings. Cholesterol is itself the building block for all the major hormones, including the sex hormones. It is the sterol, a solid alcohol derived from vegetable and animal material, and is especially abundant in the brain, nervous tissue, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, skin, spleen and liver and is vital in the repair of membranes. Most of the cholesterol found in the body is not dietary but is produced by the body itself. It is now recognised that even children have high cholesterol levels. Fat intake is said to be the cause but fat and salt were always major dietary items.
An excess of cholesterol is known to be associated with diabetes mellitis and myxoedema (under activity of the thyroid gland often caused by deficiency of hormone producing enzyme activity or auto-immune thyroid destruction which is known to be caused by poisoning and to result in slowed physical and mental metabolism). There is a known link with hormone production in the "chrionic (i.e. embryonic) placentae of human male and female foetuses which may in turn effect development of the endocrine system.
Cholesterol is the essential component of plasma membranes and is used to form bile salts.
The pancreas is a vital part of the metabolism. The mechanism of stimulation of pancreatic juices is partly nervous and partly chemical. The action of the pancreas is innervated by the nerves of the sympathetic nervous system which is known to be adversely effected by OP exposure.
Sufferers have reported problems with fat digestion. Exposure to OP chemicals has been implicated in at least one local case of pancreas cancer death and there are many cases where agricultural workers have developed diabetes due to the malfunction of the insulin regulating systems within the pancreas.
The level of diabetes in children is now reported to be at an all time high.
Over the last few years I have written to many manufacturers of washing powders, deodorants and cosmetics requesting information regarding the solvents, perfumes and enzymes used. None have responded satisfactorily and some deny making obvious changes. Even minute quantities of these products cause both dramatic and dangerously debilitating effects. I have pointed out that sensitised adults have reported these effects for many years. Children are unable to report these reactions but I have been able to help many families who have suffered skin or breathing problems simply by advising avoidance of the triggering agents. Those who did not listen now have children treated with steroid drugs.
Asthma and allergy in children has now reached epidemic proportions. Adults are also afflicted.
The use of OP pesticides in food presents a dangerous combination of effects both from the presence of the phosphorus substitution action of the OP agent and the hormone mimicking and inhibiting effects due to the presence of the solvents. It is likely that the similarity of molecular shape designed into the OP agent will allow it to bond to the hormone receptors, thus mimicking the presence of a hormone.
The fact that the OP agent cannot behave as a hormone will then have the effect of inhibiting the normal action of the hormone. The imbalances thus formed will cause further, seemingly unrelated health effects but which in actual fact can be directly attributed to the results of the initial action of the OP agent.
In addition we have the known action of OP agents by way of inhibition of a variety of enzymes both generally around the body and specifically within the brain where the full effects are unknown.
Those enzyme processes are said to make 100,000 chemical changes a second and have been shown, even in 1959, to act at concentrations as low as one part in 2,500,000. It is clear that an initially simple chemical process becomes increasingly complex with time and further reactions. It is perhaps fortunate that the immune system is able to detect and correct errors in the majority of cases. It is also obvious that any undetected change, together with cell damage caused by failures in the oxygen transfer process to the cells, may quite easily form the cancers and deformities now seen with increasing regularity.
To quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1959.
"Hormones, always in astoundingly small quantities usually weighed in millionths of grams, often start reaction chains that influence the entire future course of the life process. They serve not as building stones but rather as executive officers, organizing and directing growth, differentiation and maintenance of organisms by control over enzymatic chemical transformations.
Their importance becomes most evident in their failures………"
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