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Victory for countess in sheep dip campaign.

A campaign by a Midland Countess bore fruit yesterday when a Government report concluded that farmers could face serious health risks from sheep dip containing organophosphates.

The Countess of Mar, who was poisoned by organophosphates on her farm in Great Witley, Worcestershire, has been a tireless campaigner for Governments to recognise the dangers in so-called OPs.

She has condemned civil servants and Ministers for failing to tell the whole truth about the chemicals, which are thought to be linked to Gulf War syndrome.

Yesterday, an Institute of Occupational Medicine report revealed there was a clear link between OPs and long-term health problems.

The report could have implications for a number of British court cases being brought by farmers who allege their lives have been ruined by exposure to OPs.

Food Safety Minister Mr Jeff Rooker (Lab Birmingham Perry Barr) said the study -which looked at farmers who carried out dipping using OPs and individuals whose work did not expose them to the chemicals - would be "urgently" considered by experts.

He said: "This is a timely and important piece of research. It suggests that the identified exposure to concentrates was associated with an increased likelihood of ill health in the groups studied."

Manufacturers are expected to meet the Government within a week to discuss the report's implications.

OPs are related to nerve gases used in chemical warfare and their neurological effects are said to be similar to those suffered by soldiers who say they are victims of Gulf War Syndrome.

Farmers said the chemicals, used to root out blowfly and sheep scab, caused them to suffer chronic fatigue, memory loss and aching limbs and joints, to the point where some said they became suicidal.

The Government had encouraged farmers to use the chemicals in dipping their flocks from the 1970s, but since 1992 their use has been optional.

Lady Mar, aged 58, became continually exhausted, would experience dizziness and nausea and could only work for about 30 minutes at a time after she was exposed to ship dip on her farm.

She could not be contacted yesterday but fellow campaigners said the new report showed the need for a complete ban.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 2, 1999
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