HC Deb 26 January 1988 vol 126 cc191-2W
Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to co-ordinate reports of illness in high intensity farming areas which may have been caused by pesticide or environmental illnesses.

Mrs. Currie

No arrangements exist to co-ordinate reports of illness specifically in high-intensity farming areas. Where ill health due to specific exposure to pesticides is suspected, the details can be reported to the Health and Safety Executive. All such cases are investigated, and a report which is seen by the statutory Advisory Committee on Pesticides is made to the Government. Similarly, all cases of acute poisoning from pesticides which involve hospital treatment, or a request to a poisons centre for advice, are recorded. The Government are considering how all this available though separate information can be co-ordinated.

There would be very great difficulties in studying populations in areas of high intensity farming so as to obtain general information on possible untoward effects from long-term exposure to pesticides. However, we will be discussing with the Medical Research Council, which is the main Government funded body supporting medical research from its grant-in-aid under the Science Vote of the Department of Education and Science, whether it would be possible to investigate the feasibility of such studies in order to increase public reassurance as to the safety of approved pesticides.

The Government have established a small area health statistics unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine under the direction of Professor Geoffrey Rose, to develop methods and undertake studies of illnesses which might be associated with local sources of environmental pollution.