While contracted to Securicor Omega as a self-employed courier on 15th May 2001 I came into
contact with and inhaled fumes, dust and vapour, from seed treated with Thirame, 01613, Dichlofention - Dichlofention being an organophosphate chemical never having been cleared or approve the use in the UK.
In France, the place of origin was Novartis Seeds, I have been informed by an EU source that it is unlicensed for use on bean seeds. So the bean seeds in question were treated in France and shipped to the UK for growing. The product, containing Thirame, 01613, Dichlofention (Aatifon) was not licensed in France in 2001.
The sacks were picked up from the Securicor Omega Freight Office, which is part of the Securicor building in Norwich. They were originally on a pallet, sealed with plastic. The pallet would not fit into my van so the staff wanted to split it down to go into my van. I asked if it was okay to do this and was assured that it was and it was "just feed or seeds".
A bag split while being loaded by a member of staff, which was then taped up in the warehouse by staff and loaded into my van. At no point was I made aware of the nature of the chemicals with which the bean seed had been treated.
Fifteen sacks of treated seed were transported in my small Escort van for about 1.5 hours. The sacks that had been taped up in the warehouse split en route along with another one. I wound down the window because of the stench.
On arriving at British Field Products (Crops) Hockwald. I was directed from the office to a remote storage location. The warning bells rang as the farm workers expressed shock and alarm when they saw how the goods had been transported. My hands had already come into contact with the seed and on their advice I immediately washed them.
My next drop was in London and not then knowing the exact nature of what I had come into contact with I carried on with my job as usual. Roughly 30 minutes into my journey to London my hands were beginning to feel hot and sore and so I pulled into a garage and washed them again. My throat was now noticeably sore.
I contacted my place of work after I had made my drop in London to discover exactly what I had been carrying as I was feeling nauseous. They stated that they did not believe the beans had been treated.
I was feeling very unwell at this point so I telephone my parents and asked them to contact Addenbrooks Hospital as I was driving back. Addenbrooks advice for me was to drive to an A&E unit as soon as possible with the chemical details.
As I could get no details from my workplace I stopped back at British Field Products en route home to Norwich and copied the chemical details from a small label stitched to the back of one of the sacks which they stated were torpedo beans treated with Thirame, 01613, Dichlofention.
I went straight to my local hospital - Norfolk and Norwich - who, on explaining what Addenbrooks had advised - found some information on Thirame but could find none on 01613 or Dichlofention, the unlicensed organophosphate.
They advise me that I needed to get the relevant chemical information from where I had picked the seeds up - namely my workplace, Securicor Omega, as I would probably need to get my GP to carry out blood tests. They were also interested in what warning or information had been given to me on the nature of the goods I was carrying and I had to explain that I had received no warning relating to the chemicals with which the goods were treated.
I found my workplace to be far from forthcoming with further information. They did however materialise a shipping order with two chemicals stated, upon my return from hospital. A doctor at my local surgery had information about Thirame but none about 01613 or Dichlofention.
I was later made aware that my blood could have been tested within a 24/48 hour period after the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) medical inspector, but without the relevant chemical information that was not done in time.
I left Securicor Omega Express on Friday 18th May 2001 and I began to understand the nature of the toxic chemicals I'd been exposed to as applied on the seeds and contained in the product called Aatifon.
Aatifon received a derogation*, (Derogation*= permission to be exempt from Law), issued to Aventis by the Service de la Protection des Vegetaux of the French Ministry of Agriculture.
To recap, at no point was I made aware of the nature of the chemicals with which the bean seed had been treated. The seed in question was shipped from Novartis Seeds SA France and were imported into the UK by Syngenta Seeds Ltd.
Syngenta have provided me with the following information.
"The official contracts in transportation specify that all deliveries have to be made in the original packaging (pallets included) that means for us bags on pallets".
"What is certain is that they don't have to break down the pallets since orders are always packed individually".
The HSE. say "There is no evidence that the bags were transported in an inappropriate way".
This is what happened when I notified the hospital and doctor.
I went to Norwich A&E Department (about six hours after exposure) because I was feeling very unwell with sore throat, feeling nauseous, hot and a bit dizzy. Their diagnosis was "inhaled some smelly fumes and slight contact on hands". The hospital gave me some cream for my right hand, which had come into contact with the seed.
I contacted doctors (as hospital advise blood test would probably be needed) the doctor had information about Thirame but none about Dichlofention which was not an approved product on the UK approved list of pesticides.
I was sent to the hospital for blood tests but they did not do the correct tests until it was too late and I was later made aware of this by an HSE medical inspector! During the night of the exposure I suffered from burning diarrhoea, burning urine, and was unsteady on my feet. In the morning I was producing secretion (what I thought then to be saliva) and had a noticeably different voice and a very sore throat and chest.
This is what happened when I notified the Health and Safety Executive.
The exposure incident was reported in detail to the HSE. They promised to send me a copy of their report. Time passed and on contacting them they told me that they had investigated.
I requested a copy of the report as the HSE had promised.
Their reply was "we do not give out reports to the general public". So a Data Protection Act (DPA) application was sent and what information they hand was obtained.
The HSE investigations overview stated "agreed they (Securicor) would provide training for sub-contract van driver's", "for the odd occasion they carry harmful material."
Very good of them don't you think!
The HSE added "until we obtain Mr ....'s medical records no further action proposed".
"Medical records indicates that Mr .... suffered minor hand injuries which would have been avoided with the use of gloves NFA". (NFA = no further action).
They did not address the issues of inhalation of chemical fumes, vapour and dust from having 15 sacks totalling 333 KG of chemically treated seed behind the driver. Nor did they comment on the sacks which had been improperly taped up in the warehouse and loaded into the Escort van from a sealed pallet!
The HSE's "Overview" also states "spoke to Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) position is that seed is the product ready to use and so long as MRL respected there is no problem importing"
Note that there is no MRL for Dichlofention as it is not licensed to use as a chemical in the UK and not on a UK approved list. (PSD got it wrong!) But the chemical was contained in the seed dressing Aatifon (treated seed seems to be referred to as a product or commodity) the chemical, Aatifon has an IMDG number 6.1 which the UN hazard code shows as: poisonous substances.
The HSE state the seed "was not categorised as dangerous for either supply or transport".
The question is when is a door not a door or when is a poison not a poison?...... when it is coated on something ie: treated seed??
It is a bit of any EU legislative Agri-chemical loophole!
What happens when you report to the HSE's Pesticides Incident Appraisal Panel.
(An appraisal panel is a body of persons forming an opinion on matters, showing insight, and practical wisdom!)
I agreed that this exposure could be appraised by the above panel.
Dr John Osman, Chairman of the HSE Pesticides Incident Appraisal Panel, informed me that my experience had been placed in the "Confirmed" category and that "cases in this category provide valuable information to the HSE about the health effects of pesticide use. I would like to thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of HSE and for allowing the panel to have access to the information it needs to do its work."
So the result is that the incident was "APPRAISED", "CONFIRMED", and "CATEGORISED"
Dr Osman also informed me by letter that "the HSE hold no information on the substance (chemical) Dichlofention, nor is any held on databases and hospital"
This subject was covered by "the Mark Thomas product" for Channel 4, of which more in-depth details can be found at www.channel4.com. Thanks go to them for covering the issues. Also thanks to Christopher Booker of "The Sunday Telegraph" and to all the people who have been helpful, a warm heartfelt thank you.
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