HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc40-1W
Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research is being carried out into the existence of clusters of anophthalmic and microphthalmic suffering children in areas where Benomyl, Carbendazim or related products are being used; how many clusters of anophthalmic children have been located in the United Kingdom and in what areas; and how many children are affected;

(2) what surveys she has commissioned as to what proportion of cases of anophthalmia and microphthalmia are caused by environmental factors.

Mr. Sackville

[holding answer 16 June 1993]: On the basis of available data, the evidence does not suggest an increase in anophthalmia or confirm the existence of clusters; nor is there any evidence to link Benomyl or similar products to these conditions. I refer the hon. Member to the reply my hon. Friend the Minister for Health gave the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) on 20 May at column 259, for details of the research proposal. As designed, the research proposal will seek to examine cases of anophthalmia in Great Britain over the last five years so that an assessment can be made about any differences between urban and rural areas and the geographical distribution of cases. The proposed study is restricted to anophthalmia because of the eKtreme difficulty in diagnosing the severity of microphthalmia in early life. The researchers intend to keep in close contact with colleagues at Moorfields eye hospital, who see a large proportion of these cases and are carrying out their own study into anophthalmia and microphthalmia, including geographical factors. This is due to be completed in October. This information will provide a sampling frame for any further studies which may be necessary.

These studies will help us to find out more about these rare and tragic conditions, including any possible environmental factors.

Information obtained from the register of congenital malformations maintained by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), which maintains a record of congenital malformations registered in the first seven days of life, is contained in the table.

Registrations of anophthalmia and microphthalmia in the first seven days of life
(England and Wales)
Year Anophthalmia Microphthalmia
1976 22 17
1977 19 10
1978 22 11
1979 15 7
1980 26 8
1981 13 15
1982 15 12
1983 11 11
1984 20 14
1985 15 17
1986 9 9
1987 15 9
1988 13 5
1989 14 13
1990 7 8
1991 5 10

Source: OPCS congenital malformations register, unpublished.