Since being poisoned by a pesticide it has become apparent to me that the claims made by the HSE that pesticides are tested thoroughly before release into the environment are grossly untrue. We now know that some claims made, even for chemicals added to the food we eat, are based not on the commercially available formulations but on chemical company tests performed using the almost pure active ingredient.
In the recent Evaluation Document produced by the Pesticide Safety Directorate in regard to one such chemical, pirimiphos methyl, it is admitted that printing errors give a false impression of its use.
More seriously, it is also clear that there are dangerous gaps in the safety data and that obvious risks have been ignored. Direct correspondence with the PSD does nothing to allay any fears. It is a matter of grave concern that the PSD reported data on active life in that document despite the fact that they had months earlier been sent evidence which disproved the claims they made by a factor of years.
Safe residue levels appear to be based only on certain aspects of pesticide risk such as cholinesterase inhibition and the figures on which they are based assume that the claims for active life are accurate.
This too is a grave mistake since many of these chemicals have a cumulative action and many have toxic actions on areas of the body other than cholinesterase, such as on reproduction, immune system effects and the extremely worrying mutagenic aspects which were proven even with pirimiphos methyl.
Perhaps the biggest failure of the HSE is in monitoring the human effects of pesticides resulting from inappropriate exposures. While the HSE claim that few incidents have been proven it is clear that in too many cases they are themselves avoiding the need to recognise adverse reactions. There is no doubt that the problem of diagnosis is compounded in many cases by delays in reporting and / or lack of medical knowledge in the General Practice but this too is the result of HSE failures. Had the recommendations made by Lord Zuckerman in 1951 been enforced then hospitals and doctors would have been notified before spraying operations began.
Users would not have been duped into believing that pesticides were “safe” and all involved would have been aware of the risks and of the possibility that symptoms could be related to exposure. The necessary tests would then be part of an automatic response for those at risk.
The problem does not end there however for even when victims suspect that they have suffered the effects of poisoning and ask the HSE for information they are not told the truth. My own experience was typical in that promises made regarding blood tests to be taken were not followed up and the impression was given that the symptoms could not be related and that they “sort of go away” in time. This despite the fact that the Industrial Injury Prescribed Disease C3 and the HSE’s own medical advice leaflet MS17 refer the victim, and the GPs, to the HSE for information and specifically state that permanent damage may result.
I know of other cases where the HSE have been obstructive and have received reports that facts have been manipulated in order to avoid admitting pesticide related illness.
My own case was put before the Pesticide Incidents Appraisal Panel twice in 1995. On both occasions known factual information about the timing of symptoms in relation to the exposure, active life of the chemical, the risks of inhalation, the actual circumstances of the exposure and my own exposure history were all ignored or denied by the Panel. The category in which my case was classed was twice given as “Not confirmed” which infers that there was no evidence that the pesticide caused adverse effects. Confirmed, Likely and Unlikely were the three categories of higher significance than “Not Confirmed”.
They knew that I had written supporting evidence from at least four specialists and that no less than four general practitioners had written sick notes proclaiming OP poisoning as the diagnosis.
Evidence by way of a letter written by the Director of the Guy’s National Poisons Unit indicates that they changed their opinion regarding the OP poisoning diagnosis in my case as the result of HSE pressure.
I suspect either the HSE itself or staff at the PIAP or EMAS but the letter clearly states that they reviewed their decision as the direct result of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the HSE. At the time I imagined them to be referring to the investigation into Guy's Hospital itself but the Ombudsman assured me that no such investigation had started at that time. Later my complaint against Guy’s Hospital was upheld.
The HSE refusal to address the factual issues in my case resulted in a question being asked in the House of Lords in February 1996. It was made to appear as if I had been rude and wasting HSE time.
As I pointed out to the PIAP chairman I detected his hand at work in Lord Blyth’s Parliamentary reply.
I already had evidence to show that he had been responsible for drafting a reply from the Director General of the HSE regarding a complaint about the failings within the HSE on the subject.
There has, as Lord Blyth wrote in his reply, been “voluminous correspondence and a series of telephone conversations between Mr Bruce and HSE staff” and this continued after a meeting at my home in 1995. The PIAP chairman, an EMAS representative and a senior HSE official attended. The meeting was interrupted when they witnessed first hand the effects of my illness but they refused to even examine my papers or to address the issues raised about the safety of the chemical involved. The EMAS representative made false accusations at the meeting which I later covered in correspondence in addition to being able to support what I reported during the discussions. All this can be proved beyond a shadow of doubt.
There is some suspicion that a secret “deal” was done on the day of the meeting between a Director of the Pesticides Trust who was also present and the HSE representative. We should not forget that the HSE and the Pesticide Trust jointly set the “safe” levels for incorporating the chemical involved in harvested grain.
Having failed to address the issues raised at length before, during and after the meeting correspondence with the HSE naturally continued. Lord Blyth, having been advised by the HSE, declared in his letter that “Mr Bruce has continued to write to HSE in intemperate terms, among other things suggesting that the Panel is “without integrity” and that HSE has “perverted the course of justice”. He is obviously unhappy that HSE cannot aid him in the civil claim he wishes to pursue, but the very lengthy investigation of his case that has been carried out has simply shown no basis on which HSE can do more.” The point I have persisted in making is that the data held for the safety of this chemical puts the entire nation at risk.
I am on record as stating that my priority is not the civil case but to ensure that those who have failed our children must explain themselves. A civil case may be just one means to get the information to the public. HSE and the Government know this and have made every effort to stop the case. A spokesman for Guy’s Hospital reportedly told my GP that they were on the verge of reinstating their original diagnosis of OP poisoning but they declared that “if the men in white wigs get hold of this there will be all Hell to pay.” They feared a Court case even then and that was before I discovered the Zuckerman report and that the Prescribed Disease C3 paper, which was formed under the Act of 1948, also supported my case.
Since that time I have been able to send the HSE, the PIAP, the Minister of Agriculture, the Prime Minister and the BSE Inquiry unshakeable evidence that HSE information on the chemical involved is false. Furthermore it is not the only chemical for which this has been shown and the BSE Inquiry and MAFF have been informed that the widely used “harmless” glyphosate herbicide is in actual fact a chemical with rapid insecticidal action. Once more the HSE has failed us.
Despite their claimed thorough investigation into my case they cannot even tell me that they have proof of the actual chemical involved. As with another case on the Island the strong suggestion that “grey imports” were involved was raised with the HSE in February 1993. It seems this too was not investigated by HSE.
Lord Blyth proclaimed in his letter that “None of this should deter a worker or member of the public from reporting an incident, as you suggest. On the contrary, anyone who reports an incident can be sure that it will be taken seriously and that inspectors have the tools to deal with it.”
That reply came in March 1996. Things must surely have improved since then? The HSE appear to have learnt nothing from this exchange. In July this year a man was hospitalised after using that chemical despite wearing the full range of protective clothing. He was warned what to expect but telephoned the HSE who put the phone down on him not once but twice. His own doctor threw his vital urine sample away and was totally dismissive. Eventually blood tests were taken but some 24 hours too late.
Even so they did show cholinesterase depression and ageing. That case could also have been missed.
Fortunately we are able to put the facts before the HSE. Members of the public and children cannot.
Those concerned with children’s health have called for an immediate ban. HSE refuse to act.
Perhaps they should now admit that we were right all along and that incorrect information has been given.
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